The End of ‘Results Not Typical’?

Tari just Twittered about this, and I see Rachel’s already covered it in-depth. I am giddy.

Updated guidelines on ad endorsements and testimonials under final review by the Federal Trade Commission—and widely expected to be adopted—would end marketers’ ability to talk up the extreme benefits of products while carrying disclaimers like “results not typical” or “individual results may vary.”

Instead, companies would be allowed to tout extreme results only if they also spelled out typical outcomes.

How unbelievably awesome would this be, if it actually happens? According to the proposed guidelines,

Consumer testimonials would have to be substantiated and ads would have to include generally expected results. Endorsers, not just advertisers, could be held liable for deceptive claims. “You’d have to say not only is it extreme, but how extreme is it,” the FTC’s Richard Cleland said.

Can you fucking imagine the ads? “Jane Doe wanted to lose 50 pounds, actually lost 10, then gained 15 back! CALL TODAY TO START YOUR NEW LIFE!” “Suzy Smith lost 80 pounds, which is so rare on this program it would be unethical of us to pretend you have any real prayer of doing the same thing, and five years later, she’d gained it all back and then some! DON’T YOU WANT TO BE LIKE SUZY?” “Jared Fogle lost 245 lbs. eating nothing but vegetable sandwiches, and has kept it off for 10 years because his full-time job is now being a paid spokesperson for Subway. You, too, can keep off massive amounts of weight if someone pays you loads of money to eat as little as it takes and spend all your time exercising! TRY OUR FOOTLONG STEAK ‘N’ CHEESE.” 

Please feel free to add your own imaginary advertisements in comments. This is the most fun I’ve had all week.

174 thoughts on “The End of ‘Results Not Typical’?

  1. Oh hell yes.

    Does this mean the godforsaken Head On commercials will go the way of the dodo too?

    I wonder what it’ll do to pharmaceutical ads. Most of them don’t make outrageous claims, but still.

    This is perfect timing too, as one of my classes is going to talk about how government regulates media/communication in the country. I sense a project for next Thursday. Woot!

    DRST

  2. My favorite ad is that bowflex where the guy is like “I gave all my FAT clothes to my FAT friends!” and he says it with that attitude. My ideal ad would be that same guy begging his larger clothes back OR a different guy waxing poetic about what a great clothes rack his bowflex makes, becaue I don’t seriously believe that anyone uses those things.

    Sarah

  3. Try Alli! you can lost up to 2 pounds more than you would through obsessive diet and exercise alone, mostly through anal leakage!

  4. Call Jenny Craig! Eat heavily processed cardboard food that even our food stylist can’t make look tempting in the commercials! Go hungry while your family eats fresh vegetables and whole grains for less money! Lose a few pounds! Gain them all back and welcome a dozen of their friends two months after you go off the program!

    Why don’t you call Jenny? She’s lonely with only a cardboard disc ‘pizza’ to keep her company.

  5. Wait, wait, wait. You mean the concept of “false advertising” might actually start to mean something?!

    “Now you, too, can pay too much* for over-processed nasty-tasting food and not lose any weight! Unfortunately, unlike Ms. Osmond here, NutriSystem will not pay to photoshop pictures of you to look thinner.”

    *They like to tell you it’s cheaper than what you already spend on groceries. Then they tell you it’s about $3 a meal. My food stamps cover $1.50 a meal. You tell me.

  6. “Hi, I’m Dan Marino for Nutrisystem. I got paid a fuckton of money to promote this crap and boo-hoo about weight I gained because I retired from football and no longer had to work out seven days a week and run around all the time for my job – not to mention that whole wacky ‘aging’ thing. But Nutrisystem, for the low low price of ‘a vital organ’ can help YOU lose weight for about 30 seconds, until your body says ‘fuck you, hater’ and it comes rampaging back like it’s on fire and you’re the only pond in town.

    Nutrisystem – you’d be better off eating your own vomit!”

  7. My favorite is the part where advertisers are whining about how unfair it is to make them stop being fucking deceptive. Fine print is pretty much the same thing as lying, douchebags!

    I wish I wasn’t certain they’ll find a way to weasel around whatever new standards are put in place.

  8. I hope they apply this to all adverts.
    Shampoo: Here comes the science bit! Concentrate! It’s a solution of SDS detergent thickened with polyethylene glycol and it makes your hair clean. That’s all.

  9. OMG. This makes me giddy.

    What about Hydroxycut?

    Tired of being slightly fat and having a normal heart rate? With hydroxycut, you can shed at least 5 pounds of water weight that your tissues need to function. Hydroxycut ends the useless cycle of sleeping through the night, night after night, and replaces it with wide-awake excessive sweating. You’ll feel like you ran a marathon in the morning, and you’ll look like you did too!

  10. Also, MissPrism: “Shampoo! Use it every day, and your hair will be totally stripped of natural oils, requiring you to also use our conditioner every day! WIN-WIN! Or something!”

    (Note: I say this as someone who still totally washes and conditions my hair every day, because I can’t stand not doing it. But at least I know that’s because I’ve been duped.)

  11. Fine print is pretty much the same thing as lying, douchebags!

    Thiiiiiiiis! Especially if the print is so fine I CAN’T READ IT ON MY TV. Can we at least get a law that says your fine print has to be big enough to be legible on a TV, say, 25% smaller than the national average TV size, without HD?

  12. I say this as someone who still totally washes and conditions my hair every day,

    Dude. As a fellow curly-haired person, you have go to try the no-poo! It’s awesome and I feel totally subversive.

  13. Weight Watchers! Stop dieting, starting living. And by living, we mean, counting points instead of calories because we think you are too stupid to add up things in triple or (god forbid) quadruple digits! Get humiliatingly weighed in front of a bunch of other miserable women who are also trying to lose weight! Out of a hundred unhappy sad sacks, maybe one of you will lose weight and keep it off! Go on, and hope that that one person is you, even though it’s probably not.

  14. Everytime people mention the “no-poo” method, I think they’re talking about constipation.

    (ok, back to being a grown-up)

  15. ‘We haven’t bothered to determine the long-term safety or efficacy of our program. Sign up anyway.’

  16. Everytime people mention the “no-poo” method, I think they’re talking about constipation.

    Well, they’re certainly not talking about Alli!

  17. Dude. As a fellow curly-haired person, you have go to try the no-poo!

    OK, A) Ditto Annitspurple. B) I keep thinking I’ll try it when I quit smoking (any day now), b/c as it is, my hair reeks at the end of the day. I’ve tried the $30 flower-scented corn starch that’s supposed to keep you smelling lovely between washes, but that just makes my hair all stiff and weird, which just makes me want to wash it.

  18. Weight Watchers! Stop dieting, starting living.

    You know, whenever I hear those commercials, I think, “But I am living now, right? Unless I’m undead and nobody told me.” Then I begin to wonder if Undead Fat People would be cool or just creepy.

  19. I’m embarassed to say how long I sometimes go between washings. But my point is that I’ve done the no-shampoo thing, the natural-shampoo thing, and the drugstore-shampoo thing, AND the salon-shampoo thing and not using shampoo was the suckiest of all the options. As with any other thing, it’s highly individual.

    And, okay, I washed it this past Sunday but it had been 4 1/2 weeks before that.

  20. All those weight-loss companies did use to have non-celebrities shill their products for a while. Hmm, maybe they lost money and had to use celebrities otherwise they would never sucker people into stop eating actual food?

    NutriSystem—It’s Easy! It’s Fast! Just Forget Our Food Tastes Like Shit!

  21. Weight loss ads until now have been based on “science,” the same way ads for patent medicines were for so long. Companies that makes these drugs will just stop focusing on results and start soft-selling immeasurable results.

    The commercial will show a thinnish woman in a business suit looking self-satisfied in a corporate setting and she’ll say something about getting the willpower to work her way to the top. Then cut to somebody rock climbing and she’ll say she’s motivated to try new things. Then cut to a hetero couple enjoying a candle light dinner, and to mix things up they might have the man say something about how he has the confidence to get wants. Then, the words: WILLPOWER. MOTIVATION. CONFIDENCE. will flash on the screen followed by the Alli logo.

    Fin.

  22. I’m waiting for the ad that says, “Enter the BMI class with the lowest mortality!!! Once you rebound back to your original weight, that is.”

    Oh, and Annitspurple, you’re probably thinking of U-no-poo, the Weasley twins’ constipation sensation that’s sweeping the nation. I hear it’s going to cause an obesity epidemic or something.

  23. Don’t know if this is a hijack or not, but wouldn’t this be a wonderful opportunity to create a commercial for HAES, or Not Dieting?

    The Shapelings could write (and edit and re-edit) it, Joy Nash could direct (and probably star), and we could all chip in to get it on the air.

  24. Weight Watchers!
    Kirstie Alley is our “Results Typical”!
    Just like her, you too can put your body through misery by forcing it to loose weight, only to gain it all back +10, only to force it to loose it, only to gain it all back +10!

    Don’t forget all the shame and feelings of failure, those are included and don’t even add points to your daily totals!

  25. I’ve wondered whether other groups of concerned citizens should take a leaf out of the Atheist Bus Campaign’s book. I’d happily fork out a fiver to help spread the word that “Anti ageing creams don’t work.” or “Detox is bollocks”.

  26. Unless I’m undead and nobody told me.

    Shit, that can happen?!!

    Also, I don’t care if my daily hairwashing regimen makes me a total sheep to Lush’s marketing, as long as it means my hair smells like jasmine and honey all the time. It’s a trade off.

  27. Re: Shampoo

    One of my styslists told me that the reason’ Tearless” shampoo didn’t make babies cry wasn’t because it was actually gentler or had a lower PH. Apparently they just put a chemical in it that numbs the eyes and keeps them from tearing up.

    Now I buy overpriced organic stuff. Those shampoo bars look awesome! *anxiously waits for the brunette bars to come back in stock*

  28. “Weight Watchers! It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change! Just make weighing, measuring, and obsessing over every bite of low-fat, high-fiber food that goes into your mouth part of your lifestyle!”

    “Dude, that sounds like a diet.”

    “It does? …Shit, it does! Man, how the hell am I supposed to sell this ‘not a diet’ thing if I’m not allowed to lie about it anymore?! Damn government, interfering with business all the time!”

    On the topic of shampoo, has anyone else noticed that it’s hard to find good shampoo for oily hair? And by that I mean shampoo that does not strip my hair so much that it feels like straw once it’s dried. Lamas Wheatgrass Deep Cleansing Shampoo does a great job on my greasy scalp, but it’s expensive and getting hard to find. (I seriously doubt the wheatgrass part does anything, but the shampoo part is awesome!)

  29. Wow, that “tearless” shampoo info is REALLY FUCKING SCARY!!!!!!!! I just ordered some of those shampoo bars (and a body bar). That’s what me and the fam will be using now!
    Let’s see, diet ads: “We all know the OLD definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Well, that just takes so long to say! Why don’t we just call it DIETING! After all, IT’S THE SAME DAMN THING!”

  30. I want to know if we’ll find out the actual doctoral degrees held by the experts.

    “Dr. J. Doe, thank you for your ringing endorsement of Product X, I’m sure your thesis on Early Medieval Love Sonnets came in handy when you determined the safety and efficacy of Product X.”

  31. If you use a shampoo bar, just remember it takes about a week or so to rid the hair of old shampoo residue.

    My favorites are the coconut milk shampoo bar which is scentless and the goat milk honey oatmeal body soap. (Okay, don’t make fun of me, but I even bought a special dog shampoo bar she makes for my little Kelpie.)

    The lather is so delicious, buttery and rich. Yum. My dry skin and scalp went away completely. Obviously, I’m a big (ha) fan.

  32. “Alli works for shit!”

    “One flat stomach rule: obey
    Dozens of grammar rules: disregard”
    (that’s in reference to a ubiquitous banner/pop-under ad…)

    “Weight Watchers: Sure, you could find a qualified therapist to help you with your postpartum depression, but we sell ass-flavored candy!”

  33. Everyone gushes over Lush, but I just can’t bring myself to pay that much for shampoo. Or lotion. Or soap. I am happy with my Head&Shoulders, thankyouandgoodnight.

    I also have oily hair, but I notice no difference when I wash it every day vs. every other day. It just gets greasy faster when it’s every day. I tried no-poo for 4 weeks or so, but it didn’t make my hair shiny and gorgeous, just dull and smelly. Still, “no-pooing” with baking soda and water, and rinsing with vinegar was amazing. There was no smell left. None. I have to do that more often.

  34. A Sarah, you made me pee laughing, as usual.

    I want to know if we’ll find out the actual doctoral degrees held by the experts.

    That actually is one of the proposed rules — you can’t get a podiatrist (or, presumably a Ph.D.) to endorse your hemorrhoid cream and just call it “doctor recommended.”

  35. “Call Jenny! That’s right, call today and take your chance at the diet roulette wheel! You’re more likely to win the lottery than you are to lose any noticable amount of weight and keep it off, but hey – it could happen! Isn’t it worth the gamble with your health?”

    Grrrr. I know, I know… the changes are a good thing, but it just reinforces in my brain how bad things have been. Every commercial has the fine print along the bottom!

  36. I saw the strangest thing today. It was an ad for a diet that did NOT have the “results not typical”. In fact, their website says, “There is usually a problem with ‘success stories’. Because many brands cherry pick what they present, credibility is undermined. At MiLife we know that almost 80% of our members are being successful! That’s why our success stories are typical, not exceptional.”

    I am deeply suspicious.

    As for the truth in advertising thing, I vote for: “BC Dieticians: Where tomatoes are a Sometimes Food.”

    (I had a dietician who had a whole bunch of restrictions. In addition to limiting me to 420 calories of starches a day, she wouldn’t let me have more than one cup of “limited vegetables” like tomatoes. Otherwise, you see, I might not lose weight.

    When I explained I was Italian, she said that if I really wanted to, I could reduce my starches even further, so I could have more sauce but almost no pasta.

    Gods.)

  37. Weight Watchers is a lifestyle change*!

    *That makes you feel like utter crap because you’re starving and irritable all the time.

    Diets don’t work – Weight Watchers does…for approximately .00009% of the human population.

  38. Wait, there’s an alternative to shampoo? Please tell me what it is, because my hair is always annoying.

    And maybe now the commercials will start being really honest, and say what they actually mean: WEIGHT LOSS MIRACLE DRUG! If you live, you might be thinner! It’s worth it, you horrible fatass, don’t you want to get LAID?! If you do die, at least you’ll be dead instead of FAT! And that’s one more lardie off the perfect world that lives in my head!

  39. Man, I envy you guys who can go without shampoo without becoming such an oily mess it’s just disgusting. I’ve done that, and it was not pretty. Oil soaps and I don’t get along, either. (I kind of think that washing with baking soda counts as washing with something similar to soap, though.) Removing the “natural” oils and replacing them with non-human ones that condition without becoming impossibly greasy is muuuuuuuch nicer for my hair. And helps prevent the dandruff. So yeah, everyone is different.

    That said, I’ve been intimidated by solid shampoos because I don’t totally understand how to use them in the physical, practical sense, but I’m curious about them. I love most things at Lush, so I’d consider it. (Though I’m also intimidated by the price of most things at Lush, and the solid shampoos don’t look like they would last very long.) I did NOT like the liquid shampoos and conditioners at Lush, but maybe the solid ones are better?

  40. It’s worth it, you horrible fatass, don’t you want to get LAID?! If you do die, at least you’ll be dead instead of FAT! And that’s one more lardie off the perfect world that lives in my head!

    SugarLeigh, I just snarfed all over myself here.

  41. That actually is one of the proposed rules — you can’t get a podiatrist (or, presumably a Ph.D.) to endorse your hemorrhoid cream and just call it “doctor recommended.”

    Wait a minute, you mean my dream of a lucrative endorsement career is over?

  42. “Taking this pill, restricting your calories and exercising will help you lose weight! Of course, restricting your calories and exercising without the pill will too but we want you to buy our pill!”

  43. I *love* the baking-soda-and-vinegar routine. Now I can wash my hair maybe twice a week and it’s all soft and shiny, rather than going oily and gross by day 2. I even put some perfume oil in the vinegar to make my hair smell less salad-like ;-)

  44. Wait a minute, you mean my dream of a lucrative endorsement career is over?

    With a PhD in English, you could still endorse my books. (She says as if the plural is a given.)

  45. “…one more lardie off the perfect world that lives in my head…”

    and now there’s coffee sprayed across my monitor. Thanks a lot.

  46. HA, Stephanie, thank you so much… wish I’d seen that first!

    Oh well. There’s rarely a such thing as “too much” information for people like me. ^_^

  47. Volcanista: “That said, I’ve been intimidated by solid shampoos because I don’t totally understand how to use them in the physical, practical sense, but I’m curious about them. I love most things at Lush, so I’d consider it. (Though I’m also intimidated by the price of most things at Lush, and the solid shampoos don’t look like they would last very long.) I did NOT like the liquid shampoos and conditioners at Lush, but maybe the solid ones are better?”

    I’ve used the Lush solid shampoos and they do last a good amount of time. Probably a *little* less than an average bottle of shampoo, but the difference is minimal. Though I usually only wash my hair every other day. Also, from a portability angle, they’re awesome. However, I haven’t used their liquid shamps/conditioners, so I can’t say if the solids are better than the Lush liquids.

  48. Alii – Change your life! And most of your wardrobe, and possibly some of your furniture. Hey, when the 5 pounds you lost comes back and the anal leakage stops at least you’ll already have a new sofa!

  49. Aaaand now all I can do is luxuriate in my brand-new earworm, a future commercial for Alli based on an indelible childhood memory: “It’s the new poo revue, coming right at you!”

  50. My tip for those of you with curly or wavy hair trying to do without shampoo: use conditioner instead.

    Hair is like skin, it’s highly individual and you have to find the right regimen for yourself. I stopped using shampoo for a few weeks and just used conditioner every day, which did a lot to revive the waves in my hair. Also it let me feel like I was cleaning the hair every day by using the conditioner and massaging the scalp, because not using shampoo and just rinsing my hair out with water made my hair dull and limp.

    Now I shampoo 1 or 2 times per week depending on how sweaty I get and use conditioner most other days, with a random day off here & there. And I’ve seen a noticeable difference in the health of my hair. (I also gave up brushing which has been harder than doing without the shampoo!)

    (I did this after reading Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey, a NYC hairdresser who specializes in curly hair.)

    Thus endeth the random endorsement babble.
    DRST

  51. “So sustainable- choose LIghterLife. Lose weight fast… And then watch in amazement as the 56lb it took you four months of fasting, drinking so much water you slosh like an old goatskin, pissing like a racehorse and having ketosis breath that could defur a gorilla comes ZOOOOMING back on in a matter of weeks. And it’s all your fault because you didn’t carry on paying us £70 a week to give you trite platitudes from the Big Book of Diet Lies that we call ‘Maintenance’. Have fun Fatso!”

    I spent over £1000 on LighterLife, lost 50lb in a matter of weeks then gained it all back and much much more cos I couldn’t afford to carry on paying. Had it occured to me that I would only be thin for as long as I could pay I would have spent the grand on cake…

  52. Lose three times as much weight with our product! Hell, lose 100 times as much! A thousand times as much! Because you know what happens when you multiply three or 100 or 1000 by zero! You get the truth about our product!

    Shampoo-I did the no poo thing for a while, it wasn’t for me. I’m now a lush shampoo bar convert. My favorite is the “NEW” bar. They last a really long time, too. I want to try the shiny hair one next.

  53. volcanista, just like a bar of soap. When I’ve used them in the past, I’d rub the bar in my hands to get a bit of a lather and use that to wash my hair.

    I tried the no-poo stuff for a while, and my wavy hair looked AMAZING. Except for the part where it started falling out by the handful thanks to all that hateful oil. Thanks, PCOS! Anyway, I use Nioxin now and my hair is growing back a little but it doesn’t smell pretty and that makes me sad. But then I tell myself, well, due to this shampoo at least you have hair to wash.

  54. Okay, so then can I ask my very ignorant question about Lush solid shampoos: How do you put a solid shampoo into your hair?

    Basically, I would wet my hair, wet the brick then take the brick and rub it on my head until I got enough lather to satisfy me, then proceed to wash it like I would had I used liquid shampoo. I hope that makes sense!

  55. This is the second time I’ve heard raves about Lush shampoo in two days, and a friend just sent me some delightful Lush bath bombs for my birthday. Clearly, fate doesn’t really care about my bank account. :-)

  56. Oh, incidentally, has anyone here ever tried the Nutrisystem stuff? The thought of eating pre-packaged (freezedried?) meals that don’t even need to be refrigerated, for God’s sake, for three meals a day indefinitely gives me the heeby-jeebies.

  57. (And that question was asked in a “is this as vile as it sounds?” not a “I’m thinking of trying it out” way, if that wasn’t clear. Argh, sorry for the triple post).

  58. LUSH bars are pretty much the same thing as regular shampoo, just in a solid form — they contain synthetic detergents.

    A lot of other shampoo bars (like Chagrin Valley, love it, try the soaps on your hair if you find the shampoo bars too drying) are simply nice soap. Prairieland Herbs is supposed to have nice shampoo bars too.

    Kate, you can wash your hair as often as you want and still be no-poo. No-poo refers to what you use to wash your hair, not how frequently you do it.

  59. So I think the Johnson’s Baby Shampoo thing is actually more of an urban legend. I’m a PhD chemist, and I just read the list of ingredients. While there are chemicals in there, they are just detergents and stabilizers, and not anesthetics. Also, I asked a friend of mine who works at J&J about it. She said that the rumor started decades ago and has recently gained popularity again as an e-mail forward, and the company’s been battling the rumors ever since. This site provides info about each chemical listed, with very good sources for the info (ie – the American Chemical Society magazine). Bottom line: ALL shampoos contain detergents, and a naturally derived detergent made from burned ashes isn’t chemically superior to one that’s made in a lab. Baking soda is is a mild base, and vinegar is a diluted form of a pretty heavy duty acid. I’m not convinced they’re more “natural.” The main difference is just the stabilizers, the packaging, and the pretty smells. That said, I’m not saying I support the beauty/shampoo industry, I’m just saying that chemicals are in everything (yay chemistry!), and that Johnson’s Baby Shampoo isn’t some sort of evil plot to numb baby’s eyes.

  60. Well, I don’t really care if they have “synthetic” detergents or not. I do like Lush, though. :)

    So wait, “no-poo” doesn’t mean actually not washing your hair, but it means no “synthetic” ingredients? I am skeptical of this. It kind of sounds like more of the false natural/unnatural dichotomy.

    Anyway, thanks for the feedback, guys. I am a little skeptical that a bar would lather up enough here to work as a shampoo because the water is so hard, but it might be worth a try!

  61. Well I’m going to jump on the shampoo bandwagon – I wash my hair once a week, because its too long and thick to be bothered to do it more often!

    I use Miessence because they’re organic and don’t have all the chemicals in them that supermarket shampoos have (personal decision to avoid unnecessary scary chemicals), and I love the way they smell! Plus since I started using them my hair is healthier than it used to be… although whoever said it takes a while to get the chemicals out of your hair is right!

  62. Would it be bad of me to reccomend the ‘no-poo’ ethod to a friend of mine who has issues with shampoos actually cleaning her hair (she acknowledges this)?

  63. volcanista, the no-poo people are mostly mad about silicones coating their hair and with sodium/ammonium laureth/lauryl sulfate, because SLS/ALS are known skin irritants. Also, yes, no-poo and happy-natural-organic people tend to go hand-in-hand (I say this with all the love in my heart), but I can kind of see skipping the SLS/ALS, especially if you have problems with scalp irritation.

  64. More shampoo thread drift: a friend of mine had gone years not washing his hair with soap and it was long, thick, gorgeous hair. He said that it was really disgusting for quite a while (maybe more than 4 weeks?) as it took a while for the natural production of oils to level off. He believed that stripping the oils made your body produce even more, because it was thinking “oh no! no oil’s left!” He also made sure to rinse out his hair in the shower every day, even though he wasn’t using soap. In the end, I don’t think he used anything on it at all.

    The baking soda/vinegar thing sounds intriguing, except for how much I simply cannot stand the smell of vinegar!

    And the honesty in advertising thing? Amazing! I don’t even know how they’ll manage to sell stuff. All these great examples notwithstanding! :-)

  65. Sweet Machine, you could still go the “aspirational endorsement” route. You know, where they show clips of your awesome, fantastic life as a PhD (like, you know, where you chair the most sophisticated and glamorous conference ever–I’m thinking cheering fans outside, desperate to catch a glimpse of the superstars of literary theory, and then it ends with a fashion show for no damn reason) and then you explain how [product here] somehow applies, while broadly hinting that, if viewers use it, they can be as offbeat and interesting as you.

  66. “This program is not for everybody. It will not work long-term for anyone who’s pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant. Or who was born as the result of a pregnancy. “

  67. Huh, I really thought I heard that the sulfates were cleared of causing problems for people in studies, so I kind of thought it was yet another one of those OMG Evil Chemicals Buy Only Natural Crap scares.

    Guys, we have had this discussion several times before, but please? Chemicals = all matter around you, not Evil Unnatural Things. A compound derived by purifying an extract of organic magicflower weed is not any better or worse than the same compound derived by reacting inorganic materials in the [same] laboratory, and the natural/unnatural dichotomy is a false one. If you find that a particular ingredient or group of ingredients doesn’t agree with you in food, or soap, or whatever, and something else works better, than that’s totally awesome. But it doesn’t mean that purified or synthesized materials are inherently dangerous, bad for you, or untrustworthy (all of which are derived from something natural – I mean, where do you think inorganic compounds come from, another dimension??).

    I know this frustration is leaking over a bit from the other thread on my part, and from the fact that related subjects have come up here a lot lately even though we’ve talked about it at length before.

  68. What volcanista said. Yes, I’m a card-carrying member of the American Chemical Society, whose motto really is “better living through chemistry.”

  69. I gave up on shampoo for a while and used soap and water to clean, and a vinegar and water rinse afterwards to balance the pH. It worked for me, but then again, I lived in an area with soft water. If you’re in a hard water area it won’t work as well.

  70. LilahMorgan, IMHO it is beyond nauseating. Also please to beware of rashes based in chemical reactions to the benzoates and other preservatives. I have no other words.

  71. Only, I am seriously worried they’ll just claim the results at five weeks or three months.
    Because no one seems to actually study the long term effects of any diet.

  72. My experience with shampoos has been that the differences between brands and types are slight, and not enough to justify the higher price of the better ones — but all work much better, not just more efficiently, if cut with plain water by at least half.

  73. Tear-free shampoos do NOT have an eye-numbing ingredient in them.

    There are very few things that can actually numb the eyes; lidocaine is the main one and they don’t have that in there!

    Anyhow, try snopes.com when you hear something like that, they usually have good coverage. For this one, I didn’t have any luck on snopes, but googling it came up with this great google answers – http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/442292.html

    ~Kali

  74. I’m one of those people who would rather use products that have ingredients which I recognize and yes, are more “natural.” And it’s true, some chemicals make me nervous. If I can replace a product with one from my (or someone else’s kitchen or garden, I feel better about the choice. No one else has to feel that way though (even my husband!)

    I’m sure you are right that there are many perfectly safe synthetic ingredients, I eat and use many of them daily myself, but working toward this is just what resonates with me. We all have our own issues and our own little experiments with our bodies, which have different sensitivities. For me, it was medical problems with hormones, including being unable to get pregnant, that first led me to wanting to eat food closer to the earth and eliminate more chemicals from my life. I’m far from perfect.

    I can’t say it’s made a difference either, I definitely never got pregnant. I know it’s just an experiment at best, but it’s one I feel like doing, you know? Like everyone, I’m just hoping for mutual respect from others for the right to choose to eat what feels appropriate for me. For the record, sometimes that’s organic spinach, sometimes I’m downing hot dogs and snickers bars, and I feel okay about both.

  75. I can’t speak for everyone, volcanista, but the purpose of going no-poo for me was a) to clean my hair more gently than most petrochemical detergents do and b) to reduce my reliance on petrochemicals even that little bit. I personally find that using gentle handmade soap on my hair works great, and “no poo” for me refers to no commercial shampoo.

  76. Lush solid shampoo is actually very good value. For about £4 I get somewhere around 60 washes, and I have very thick hair. Seems like a lot, until you realise how long it lasts. Same with their cleansers. Their soap doesn’t last as long, though that depends on which soap. Some of them last better than others.

  77. If manufacturers of weight loss and exercise products decide to stop running informercials because facts and truth and such just ruin their effectiveness, what is going to be on in the wee hours when I can’t sleep? And if it’s ads for cleaning products, will they have to start saying “Results not typical; your house is still going to be a morass of kidcrap no matter how much of our product you buy”?

  78. I did the no-poo thing for a while, mostly just “washing” my hair with conditioner, which worked fine and made it very soft. This was when I had hair down past my butt. I cut it short this last fall when I decided properly caring for that much hair was no longer fun but rather like taking care of a pet I didn’t like anymore.

    I recommend the conditioner method – VO5 conditioner, the really cheap stuff? surprisingly works really well. Just put it in your hair and let it sit for like 4 minutes while you relax in the tub, then scrub like you would with shampoo (it will lather up a tiny bit) and rinse out. This is great for summer time because I found I didn’t have to deal with humidity frizzing out my hair when I only used conditioner.

  79. sticky, fwiw – and this is an area where I have some old hurts, so I’m sensitive here – when you say:

    I’m one of those people who would rather use products that have ingredients which I recognize and yes, are more “natural.” And it’s true, some chemicals make me nervous. If I can replace a product with one from my (or someone else’s kitchen or garden, I feel better about the choice. No one else has to feel that way though (even my husband!)

    it sounds almost disingenuous, or at least, a little less-than-straightforward. I’d almost rather you say either:

    1) “I think synthesized chemicals are scary and that natural is empirically healthier and/or morally superior” (which is a claim we could debate, making our respective cases using evidence); or

    2) “This is just a lifestyle choice that I happen to like. It’s morally neutral and not subject to commentary by strangers, just like the color of one’s bathroom or whether one prefers to wear babydoll or A-line dresses.” (in which case we’d move on to something else, because what’s there to talk about? You’re a grownup, you’re allowed to choose a shampoo just because you like it, and so am I.)

    But it seems like you’re saying both — and not just you; I think I hear this a lot — and I never know what to make of that. Nobody else need make the same choices as you, but those choices are better choices? If they’re better choices — if there’s a shampoo out there that is genuinely a more ethical choice – then wouldn’t that be the more ethical choice for everyone? (Realizing that not everyone will be in a position to *prioritize* the moral good of that choice, but the moral good holds true regardless. Like what Kristin said about reducing her reliance on petrochemicals… it’s offered as a moral good that holds true for the choice itself, no matter who makes it, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will be able to prioritize it in precisely the way she does. That I can be down with.)

    OTOH, if it’s just a personal preference, then why all the demonizing of chemicals as “scary” and the morally-loaded language about “natural”?

    I guess, here’s how it falls on my ears, and I’m fairly certain you don’t intend for it to, so I apologize if I’m unfairly bringing my own issues to the fore here. It sounds sort of like if someone said, “Well, of course it’s better to get an A than a C. But some people aren’t that smart, and not everyone has learned how important an education is. So I think that C students should be graciously tolerated and allowed to muddle along in their benighted fashion, because, honestly, we can’t expect all that much from them.” Or, “Well, I care about looking pretty and being in shape because obviously that’s a better way to be, but some people aren’t as disciplined as I am, so I put up with people who’ve let themselves go.”

    This is sounding harsher than I meant, and my kids are demanding my attention…. erggh…

  80. I really like this stuff from Kerastase for making my curly, highlighted hair look good:

    http://www.lookfantastic.com/hair/kerastase/kerastase-haircare-ranges/nutritive/oleo-relax/kerastase-oleo-relax-serum.html

    You do have to be willing to spend rather a lot on your hair, however…

    I can’t quite bring myself to try the no-shampoo thing (I’m sorry, I’m British, I just can’t call it “no-poo”, it’s simply wrong) – my hair looks dreadful after not washing it for just one day, and I don’t think I have the guts to go through the initial two weeks, or whatever it is, without shampooing.

  81. I don’t think it’s too harsh, A Sarah. My problem is NOT with people making their own choices about what to use on their bodies, or what to eat, or what-have-you. It’s about the careless, pseudoscientific language. It’s not just semantics. Using the words “natural” and “chemical” as though they are opposites is extremely problematic, and it’s driving me fucking crazy. So expect a blog post later this week. ;-)

  82. Right, volcanista (and I’m looking forward to your blog post.) And I think that’s part of what bothers me about the hybrid oh-it’s-just-my-personal-preference-which-happens-to-also-be-empirically-better approach that I see very often by people who like “natural” products but are trying (laudably) not to be assholes about it.

    Mind you, I think it is GREAT to try not to be a proselytizing asshole! And I really appreciate the motivation. But I think that particular approach ends up allowing someone to make falsifiable claims but not have to back them up. “My own belief is that natural product/practice X is healthier and better and lovelier the alternative is scary and artificial and gross. But that’s just how I choose to live.”

    Because when someone counters with, “Wait, could you back up those claims you made about St. John’s Wort being better and purer than Zoloft?” or whatever (deliberately using an example unrelated to shampoo in the hopes of not seeming like I’m piling on Sticky here, but just on the prevailing cultural construct)… very often you get the response, “Hey, this is just my personal preference, how I choose to live. I said that you’re free to choose otherwise.”

    Well, yes, you did… except that a claim was also made: that “natural” things (whatever that means) are better. If that’s true, then there’s a case to be made for it. And then, if you make that case, there’s a further conversation to be had about whether the goods secured by the natural product are mitigated by other countervailing factors; and whether any specific person has an obligation to seek out the natural alternative regardless of their circumstances, etc.

    OTOH, if it’s truly just a matter of personal preference, then there’s nothing “better” about preferring “natural” products… any more than there’s something “better” about preferring a yellow bathroom to a taupe one. You can still feel great about your yellow bathroom, you can ADORE your yellow bathroom, and you can feel proud of all the work you did finding just the right shade of yellow… But you can’t link your joy to some independent standard of bathroom perfection that everyone — if they only knew — would desire for bathrooms too if they had the means. Some people just don’t like yellow in their bathrooms, and that’s okay, and doesn’t detract at all from your delight in your bathroom.

  83. “because SLS/ALS are known skin irritants….”

    don’t want to get a lecture about “chemicals” being “natural” and not “evil,” but I thought SLS/ALS could be pollutants…

    …and quite frankly, some chemicals are POISON. that’s why they come with skull and crossbones on their labels and you can’t drink them or rub them all over your body. no need to make a moral value when a CHEMICAL CAN KILL YOU. not all chemicals are created equal.

  84. Hi, my name is Jane Doe, and you might remind me from a string of shitty movies in the 80′s where I wore a bikini and shot a machine gun on a jetski. Well, now I really need a paycheck because snorting uncut Bolivian coke is a lot more expensive than you would think.

    Let’s start with the quality foundation weight watchers gives you with your training coach. Hi there, Suzie!

    Suzie: Jane, you look like shit. You’ve been eating fucking carbs again, haven’t you.

    Not to mention the support you’ll get from your enthusiastic weight loss pals!

    Enthusiastic Weight Loss Pal: I gained a pound today, actually. I think I ate too much pasta. It’s always the pasta. I’m a failure, aren’t? God, I just don’t understand why I can’t be thin?! *helpless sobbing*

    And don’t worry, the negligible amount of weight that comes off that no one would notice if you wouldn’t stop talking about your new diet will STAY off! As long as you continue to watch your points and stay within the horrific WW food choices! Like this … delicious… almond cookie…. that’s 1 point. Oh dear Lord, it’s disgusting. I pray for the sweet release of death.

  85. Alli: We don’t actually help you lose weight, we just shame you into it by making you poop in your pants, fattie. Now put down that donut unless you want to change…again.

    On the shampoo thing, let me clarify a couple of points.

    No-poo= no shampoo at all.
    Low-poo= using less shampoo than normal, either by diluting it or just not using as much.
    Co-washing= using conditioner instead of shampoo to wash your hair
    Dry poo= using things like baby powder, dry shampoos, and cornstarch instead of shampoo.

  86. not all chemicals are created equal.

    Right, but I think volcanista’s point (and correct me if I’m wrong here) is that “chemicals” is a hopelessly broad term that has been hijacked by certain cultural movements to indicate “industrial” and “evil” — when in reality the ENTIRE EARTH is made of “chemicals.” That’s why there are both organic and inorganic chemistry classes, after all: many chemicals are organic! Saying something like “I don’t like something with too many chemicals” is like saying “I don’t like something with too many atoms.”

  87. …and quite frankly, some chemicals are POISON. that’s why they come with skull and crossbones on their labels and you can’t drink them or rub them all over your body. no need to make a moral value when a CHEMICAL CAN KILL YOU. not all chemicals are created equal.

    So can naturals/botanicals. Hemlock tea anyone? How about some poison ivy moisturizer?

    It all depends on the substance.

  88. Sweet Machine, you could still go the “aspirational endorsement” route. You know, where they show clips of your awesome, fantastic life as a PhD (like, you know, where you chair the most sophisticated and glamorous conference ever–I’m thinking cheering fans outside, desperate to catch a glimpse of the superstars of literary theory, and then it ends with a fashion show for no damn reason) and then you explain how [product here] somehow applies, while broadly hinting that, if viewers use it, they can be as offbeat and interesting as you.

    Okay, if this doesn’t happen, the whole PhD was a waste.

  89. But I don’t have a case. I really don’t! I don’t go read scientific studies and weigh it all out with graphs and charts. I just felt drawn to this and I do it. I wish I felt less wishy washy about it myself.

    I would be disingenuous to say it’s just a preference like a yellow bathroom because I do think it might be “healthier” for ME. I don’t know how to own that and explore that without having to prove it or without making others feel bad about their choices, but I do see your point about it being difficult to discuss when it seems people are cloaking their opinions as just “likes.” I completely recognize that words like natural or chemical are sweeping generalizations and loaded terms, but I don’t know how else to talk about it. Maybe I shouldn’t if I can’t be more precise.

    I do think some people might be more sensitive to some chemicals than others. I can only speak for myself when I say that switching to soap without synthetic detergents improved my skin and hair. but my mom said, “meh, Suave has always worked for me, and I’ve never had an itchy scalp.” Fair enough.

    Thanks for some new things to think about Volcanista and A. Sarah. I appreciate your thoughtful posts, and I can’t wait to read your upcoming post on this, Volcanista. I’m still exploring lots of ideas about food and I’m always blown away by how you all make me question my own ideas and think about things in a new way.

    I’m here to explore and learn.

  90. Am I the only no-poo who doesn’t use anything at all? No vinegar, baking soda, whatevs?
    I have super short hair, ie. super dykey, and I find the slight grease makes it stick up and have more texture than when I shampoo. Forget ‘natural’ or ‘chemical’- I enjoy not spending more money on products (cheap), and cutting that step out of the shower process (lazy). And it fits in nicely with my grungy hippy lifestyle :)

  91. ‘So can naturals/botanicals. Hemlock tea anyone? How about some poison ivy moisturizer?

    It all depends on the substance.”

    Which was my point in saying this….don’t want to get a lecture about “chemicals” being “natural” and not “evil…”

    It just seems that in the semantics debate: real/fake, organic/inorganic, natural/synthetic…in this post and the one previous to it, that a poster can become demonized when stating that a substance can be harmful. My point above was to state that not all substances, real, fake, organic, inorganic, natural, synthetic are above being scrutinized. As you stated so succintly above susa, hemlock is poisonous. Thank you, but I’m well aware. I think it is universally agreed that DDT is harmful to the environment. But back in the day it was used for everything….so I guess that they shouldn’t have questioned it was harmful, because well it was made from the earth, using earth substances. Maybe I should go try to find some DDT and wash my hair in it. Sounds like a good idea.

    I took special offense to this:
    “Guys, we have had this discussion several times before, but please? Chemicals = all matter around you, not Evil Unnatural Things. A compound derived by purifying an extract of organic magicflower weed is not any better or worse than the same compound derived by reacting inorganic materials in the [same] laboratory, and the natural/unnatural dichotomy is a false one. If you find that a particular ingredient or group of ingredients doesn’t agree with you in food, or soap, or whatever, and something else works better, than that’s totally awesome. But it doesn’t mean that purified or synthesized materials are inherently dangerous, bad for you, or untrustworthy (all of which are derived from something natural – I mean, where do you think inorganic compounds come from, another dimension??).”

    This seems to me to be a condescending response to anyone who is concerned with substances in the products they use. It reads, Guys, stop being so stupid. Just be a sheep, use whatever and don’t worry about it.

  92. Mycrazyhair – YES! My on again/off again relationship with Weight Watchers became completely OFF when they started limiting onions. Fucking onions! Sorry, I am not carrying 100 pounds of onion weight.

  93. Hey, have you ever wondered why NutriSystem has a different spokesperson every year? It’s because they all eventually gain the weight back. And who the hell can blame them; would you want to subsist for the rest of your life on this cardboard-tasting pseudofood?

    Or for those really shady “diet” pills, the ones that have to keep changing their formulas to stay legal: Results not typical, because these people parading around in swimsuits didn’t actually lose weight with our bathtub speed pills. They’re athletes who were injured and gained weight while inactive — that’s when we shot the “before” scenes — then lost it when they recovered and were able to work out again. We make them sign a sooper-sekrit non-disclosure form, because we know even the kinds of idiots who think you can lose weight by taking a pill wouldn’t buy our shitty product if they knew this!

  94. It reads, Guys, stop being so stupid. Just be a sheep, use whatever and don’t worry about it.

    I’m sorry, you got “Just be a sheep” out of that, and you’re complaining about Volcanista being condescending?

  95. This seems to me to be a condescending response to anyone who is concerned with substances in the products they use. It reads, Guys, stop being so stupid. Just be a sheep, use whatever and don’t worry about it.

    So you agree that natural/unnatural is a false dichotomy, but you think that saying so is condescending?

  96. CJ said: My on again/off again relationship with Weight Watchers became completely OFF when they started limiting onions.

    Oh dear gods, really? They make you count points for onions? Clearly I haven’t been to WW in a while. Though I do remember back when they started making you count your carrots. The trauma!

  97. So you agree that natural/unnatural is a false dichotomy, but you think that saying so is condescending?

    Absolutely not. Saying so is great. Just saying there’s nothing wrong with questioning the substances used in any product. But, my bad. I just took as being talked to like I’m 5. Which maybe today, I am.

  98. sticky – I’m with you on people having individual sensitivities. My Mom once randomly used a sample of laundry detergent she got in the mail and the two of us broke out in horrible hives. And since the soap part of detergents (Hi, I’m so not a chemist!) needs a lot of rinsing to get out of fabric, we had to wash all our clothes multiple times to get it out. I haven’t used anything but ERA since then.

    Personally I’m offended by the way in which our society has co-opted the idea of “organic” to turn it into a marketing ploy, especially when that label is slapped onto things without bothering to explain precisely how “organic” is being defined. The more I study FA, feminism and the culture the more I find myself upset about the consumerism that drives so much of our society, because it can lead to so many bad things. Bah.

    iheartchocolat I’m really confused now. How do you get Guys, stop being so stupid. Just be a sheep, use whatever and don’t worry about it
    out of
    If you find that a particular ingredient or group of ingredients doesn’t agree with you in food, or soap, or whatever, and something else works better, than that’s totally awesome.?

    Also your original post did not sound like you were saying every category of substances has dangerous ones. You said flat out some chemicals are POISON. that’s why they come with skull and crossbones on their labels and you can’t drink them or rub them all over your body. After you made a point of “not wanting to get a lecture” about how all substances are chemicals of some kind, which suggested you rejected that idea on its base. I cringed reading your original post because you were thumbing your nose at the point volcanista and others had just made about the definition and nature of chemicals. Instead you were asserting your perspective and reinforcing the unwelcome idea that chemicals only need to be watched carefully. If you left out some words that intended to make it clear you meant everything can kill you somehow, well, you left the words out and don’t need to get quite so snippy when people point that out to you.

    DRST

  99. sticky, you are a class act. I really appreciate your taking my remarks in the spirit they were meant, since I don’t feel like my words did the best job at conveying that spirit. I’ve felt really burned by what I perceived to be others’ indiscriminately-blasted crunchiness before, so this is a sore spot for me. I am still learning too.

  100. @CJ and mycrazyhair — are even RAW onions given point values now? When I was on WW cooked onions cost points but raw onions were free.

    Just typing that makes me thankful all over again that I only did WW once.

  101. Man, I love turning people into demons. Demonization for the win!

    “don’t want to get a lecture about “chemicals” being “natural” and not “evil,” but I thought SLS/ALS could be pollutants…

    …and quite frankly, some chemicals are POISON. that’s why they come with skull and crossbones on their labels and you can’t drink them or rub them all over your body. no need to make a moral value when a CHEMICAL CAN KILL YOU. not all chemicals are created equal.

    Some chemicals are also water, and protein! That IS the point, and that’s my only point. I never said (and am pretty sure I explicitly said the opposite) that it’s bad to be discerning, or to make personal choices, or to conduct scientific studies to determine the safety and efficacy of consumer products. I actually like those ideas. But the chemicals vs. nature false dichotomy IS the problem I was pointing out. Sorry if you felt lectured or personally attacked – you were not the only person talking that way. I don’t usually get so riled up because one person used a word in a way I don’t like (usually.). This has been a consistent pattern.

    A Sarah, I prefer gluten-free baby doughnuts to the normal kind because they save puppies, but that’s just how I feel personally.

    Baa!

  102. @A Sarah – I have no idea whether WW limits your raw onions, since I haven’t been there in years. But my crazy extremely detail-oriented dietician definitely did.

  103. Volcanista — I actually never said anything previous to my question regarding SLS/ALS. And, I think I have a personal problem….which further reinforces my principal belief that you should never speak/type when angry. So my apologies. And this goes for me calling you an idiot to your face. Have a good one.

  104. Well, to be fair, I went back and looked and it was Nan who first said that, not you. It did sound like you were agreeing that Americans are “piss-poor at saving,” though.

  105. I came here to say something about the post, but now I am fascinated by shampoo bars. I didn’t know such things existed!

  106. Sweet Machine, you mean the offers haven’t begun pouring in already? You need to get a better agent.

    Although, when I think about it, it sounds like you may have already made the worst mistake of all: studying at a reputable institution. Dodgy diploma mills are an absolute must when it’s those high-priced endorsements you want.

  107. “Am I the only no-poo who doesn’t use anything at all? No vinegar, baking soda, whatevs?
    I have super short hair, ie. super dykey”

    I hate having a cold neck so I’m waiting till a little later in spring before I whack all my hair off dykey-short, but yeah, I plan on trying to wash it with only water at that point.

    I probably will end up still using soap, though, if only because I love me some deliciously scented lather. (I went no-soap on my body for 6 months and my skin was great, but I missed my soap.)

  108. “Hi, my name is Jane Doe, and you might remind me from a string of shitty movies in the 80’s where I wore a bikini and shot a machine gun on a jetski. Well, now I really need a paycheck because snorting uncut Bolivian coke is a lot more expensive than you would think.”

    I ALMOST DIED LAUGHING RIGHT HERE. SRYSLY!

  109. Kristin- no body soap!?!! that’s cra-zay-zeee! no seriously, i want in on that. how did you do it? just…. no soap? no nothing? or some alternative? I don’t shave my body or wear deodorant by choice, so I need to find a way to keep the stink-factor down by at least a little… enlighten me!

  110. Ha ha ha @ Kate’sSisterJ:
    “This program is not for everybody. It will not work long-term for anyone who’s pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant. Or who was born as the result of a pregnancy. “

    And will USDA’s MyPyramid.Gov be a target of this regulation?
    I was playing around with it today and found that if I’m a “40 year old female, 5 feet 0 inches tall, 120 pounds, physically active less than 30 minutes a day” I get to eat 1800 calories a day. But if I’m a “40 year old female, 5 feet 0 inches tall, physically active less than 30 minutes a day” who weighs 130 pounds, I’m asked if I want to “gradually move toward a healthier weight,” I’m offered a 1600 per day food plan. Which I follow, and then, when I get to 120 pounds, I get to eat 1800 calories a day? Lather, rinse, repeat?

    (tying together the no-poo and dieting threads for the win?)

    I’m sure glad I weigh 222 pounds, because then I get offered “Would you like to see a food plan that will meet nutrient needs for a female, 5 feet 0 inches tall, physically active less than 30 minutes a day, in the healthy weight range?” Which turns out to be the 1800 calorie per day plan. (Shockingly close to what I actually eat to maintain this lovely figure. Not that I’m counting. Did someone say I was counting? I’m simply verifying.)

    Here’s the part the FDA may be interested in: “Following this plan should lead to modest weight loss over time.”

    Oh, really? Really?

    And I heard that extract of organic magicflower weed was what helped Rachel Ray lose 30 pounds in a month!

  111. Reading this discussion has provided me with some pretty interesting food for thought on just why it is that the word “chemicals” has accumulated so many negative implications. Obviously, it’s shorthand for something, something that often makes its meaning similar to “unnatural,” “harmful,” and “contaminating.”

    Maybe it’s because we’ve only become aware of these substances fairly recently in our history as a species and we’re still not sure how to think clearly about them. Maybe it’s because many of them, even when we can’t see them, can harm us. (We used to call the invisible stuff that can hurt us “evil.” Some of us still do, but I don’t think it has the same weight in western society that it used to.)

    Maybe it’s because we can synthesize chemicals on an industrial scale, and industrialization, despite all the benefits it’s brought, still continues to frighten and confuse us because it makes the scale and speed of our lives much greater than they would be without it. It has also produced some unpleasant consequences.

    Maybe it’s because chemistry and its uses in our lives, like many fields of knowledge in the modern world, has become so complex that it requires specialized training to understand it on higher levels and has grown so large that no one person can know it all. And maybe it’s because the people to whom we’ve delegated the responsibility for understanding it and, also, for ensuring that it is used in our own best interests, have occasionally failed to do so. (This has happened in other fields of knowledge, as well; see: economics.)

    Maybe it is because so many chemicals have become commodities (including that pesky dihydrogen monoxide), and we, sensibly enough, are instantly on the look-out for a raw deal when we realize we’re engaged in a business transaction. We grow particularly wary when it involves something that we or those we care for might ingest or otherwise absorb.

    And maybe our talking and thinking about chemicals falls into the same pattern as most of the fruits of the scientific revolution. Western biomedicine, physics, applied science of all kinds–whether we want them to or not, they are constantly changing our lives, and we often feel that we are not given the choice, that we are not asked whether what we are gaining is worth what we are giving up. In some cases, this has produced awful and offensive anti-intellectualism (the Unabomber being on the extreme end; willful ignorance being the common-or-garden manifestation), but I think most of us are just deeply ambivalent. After all, we’re complicit–which among us will give up the benefits?

    So, with the eternal caveat that individual responses will vary, I think that the word “chemicals” carries the weight of all this confusion, disorientation, and uncertainty.

    And, if you’ve made it this far–thoughts?

  112. Also (’cause I apparently haven’t typed myself out yet), a lot of specific chemicals have had very checkered pasts. We’ve seen chemicals labeled “good” (DDT–wipes out disease-carrying vermin; DES–prevents miscarriages) turn out to be very “bad” (also wipes out birds of prey; linked to rare vaginal cancers and infertility in female offspring). (Also, ahem, fen-phen for…oh, never mind.) And, often, the “bad,” like, say, radioactive stuff, can be “good”–treating cancer and so forth. Heck, even DDT is getting something of a rehabilitation.

    I think that a lot of us (yes, myself included) have responded to this by deciding that “chemicals” are guilty until proven innocent. The immediate reaction becomes “chemicals bad!” And then, if there’s time and/or need to think it through, then I take into account context, amount, use, etc. You know, all that touchy-feely critical thinking stuff. I’m not saying this is good. It may not be bad, either. It’s just yet another mechanism for coping with the enormous amounts of information to deal with.

  113. Wow, that last sentence wasn’t right. It wasn’t even wrong. (With apologies to Wolfgang Pauli.)

  114. Richelle, I did make it that far :) and had my thoughts duly provoked. Has anyone done a riff on Mary Douglas’ Purity and Danger as applied to the new healthism, fetishization of the “natural,” and food purity? Or maybe you had Douglas in mind too? Fascinating. I’m going to be mulling that one over for a while, and possibly digging out my old copy of Douglas’ book.

  115. Richelle,
    My thoughts have been provoked as well.
    Not that it’s necessary to justify, but I wonder why this discussion is taking place here? I think that there are at least two identifiable camps (and I feel like I have a foot in each one) — one that says the distinction between artificial chemicals and those that exist in nature is a false distinction, and those people who feel that somehow, natural must be better. I have a strong sympathy for both, one being more rational and the other more spirtual, in a way. I think that this makes sense for a place where prejudices explored and busted, and yet, rejections of the mainstream consumerist society are encouraged.
    I think that rejection of industry is partly at play, and a desire to return to some “simpler time” when perhaps there was less greed and evil (and when would that have been?)
    I agree that these unseen influences, whether chemical or economic, get labeled “evil.”

    For me, I fall into this thinking that you characterized this way, with some paranoia:
    Maybe it’s because chemistry and its uses in our lives, like many fields of knowledge in the modern world, has become so complex that it requires specialized training to understand it on higher levels and has grown so large that no one person can know it all. And maybe it’s because the people to whom we’ve delegated the responsibility for understanding it and, also, for ensuring that it is used in our own best interests, have occasionally failed to do so.

    When they have failed to do so, as with much technology, the results have been devastating for some (usually impacting people without much political power) and lasting for the environment. The mix of complexity and a requirement of trust in corporations that have a profit at stake is a crazy-making one that I haven’t figured out how to resolve, but I feel that tension. I don’t read Mother Jones because I can’t handle the cognitive dissonance, and I feel guilty that I’m not paying closer attention or don’t know who or what I should be boycotting. I don’t, as a result, boycott everything or anything at all. I do, however, make choices about what to feed my child or what other things I buy that are based on a kind of best choice among the worst choices.
    I don’t have a comprehensive philosophy that guides my choices. I do keep in a very, very loose way the principles of keeping kosher in mind — and I don’t even really know why, since it’s so loose at this point (I had been more observant about this when I lived in a city where it was much easier to purchase kosher meat and have access to stores that carried only kosher goods). I certainly don’t expect anyone else to keep kosher or think that what I do makes any sense. If I were to think about it deeply, I would probably come to the conclusion that the way that animals are treated/slaughtered for non-kosher purposes is most often more humane, and that based on what I value, that would be a better driver for meat purchasing.

    That’s been a huge tanget, sorry.
    What I really mean is that there is a whole lot going on in my brain about chemicals, what is natural, what I think should drive my purchases — and I really, truly work hard to keep this in my own brain and not have it bleed out into my judgement of others. This is what I do. Someone who buys a 100% manmade item does not deserve my scorn, and someone who buys a 100% organic item does not deserve my praise, or the other way around.

  116. This is getting very philosophical, but I think people have needed skilled/trained specialists whenever we have developed new technologies, for millennia. And that has probably always raised suspicions among the rest of the non-specialist population. The morality of technology itself is generally pretty neutral (with a few arguable exceptions). That it can be used well or poorly doesn’t mean we should abandon everything and impose on ourselves a lifestyle with no technology whatsoever, collecting magicflower weeds and strangling wild animals with our bare hands before eating them raw.

    A major problem with declaring something better for people because it is “natural” is that it’s not just about what feels best for your body. It also says something about how things ought to be.

  117. “Kristin- no body soap!?!! that’s cra-zay-zeee! no seriously, i want in on that. how did you do it? just…. no soap? no nothing? or some alternative?”

    Just no soap. I used a washcloth (a fresh washcloth every time) and rubbed all over under the shower spray, and I washed my face with oatmeal ground to a fine consistency.

    If I were to do it again, instead of the washcloth I’d use a Salux cloth or Italy Towel to make sure I was scrubbing away all the dead skin. Dead skin squicks me the hell out ever since I started using a Salux.

  118. Sweetmachine: “Too many atoms.” and “OMG it’s the new FA slogan!”

    I love this—it reminds me of Amadeus when His Royal Something Joseph Somebody told Mozart that his music had “too many notes.”

    And Mozart nodded and said (something like), “I see. Which ones would your majesty like me to remove?”

  119. Ah, yes, our Neanderthal ancestors surely didn’t use all of these pesky chemicals either…and look how well it turned out for them!

  120. …and I wonder if those selfsame ancestors had advertisement for “Wooly Mammoth Killing Sticks” with the tag line, “Kill hundreds of these giant monsters with this one little stick…results not typical.”

  121. There might have been Neandertals that did not trust the new technological innovations, since those killing sticks could also be used to kill each other!

  122. volcanista, I totally agree. I was groping toward that in my epic comment–maybe part of the reason why people (myself included) have such a hard time thinking critically and dispassionately about the issue of new technologies is that, given the choice (and no matter how many paleofantasies we indulge in), we would not give up the benefits. So none of us is neutral on the subject. If you don’t mind me asking–as a specialist yourself, someone who’s had that perspective-changing training, are there any areas of science and technology that make you a bit uncomfortable? (I swear I’m not trying to make you engage in an empathy exercise; I’m curious because you have such interesting things to say!)

    A Sarah, yes! O frabjous day, I absolutely had Douglas floating around in the soup that produced that bit. I would love to see what comes out of your thinking on it.

    Also [nerd alert!] I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about Jonathan Haidt’s research into the phenomenon of disgust. Check it out if you haven’t already. As best I understand it, he argues there is a dimension to human thinking that has been somewhat ignored by psychologists, with a vertical organization going from exaltation at the top (the experiences and things make us feel a part of something larger and more beautiful than ourselves, that lift us up by our mere interaction with them) to disgust at the bottom (those things that make us feel we have been degraded by contact with them). To quote him on it, “disgust appears to play a role in moral judgment, moral conflict, and ethno-political violence.” Nommy food for thought.

  123. Richelle, I care a LOT about ethics in science and in society in general. I am in favor of regulations and oversight of most science, especially in industry. I am skeptical not of the science, or of the benefits of technology, but of the broader social benefits when motivation is purely profit. Good things can come out of that, but when social benefit is not the goal it can also go very badly. I am of the opinion that one of the most important roles of government is to look out for things like that. So yes, lots of things make me uncomfortable, including some of the issues that are being discussed here. I’m not advocating for precision in language or for less pseudoscientific thought about these subjects because I am All Technology All The Time, but because I believe in this case, imprecise language is particularly problematic, and because Science is not the evil in question here.

  124. volcanista, I hope I haven’t seemed like I’m trying to paint you as an uncritical technology booster. I think I’m kind of in a similar situation as you are, only with regard to business. In my other life, I was an accountant and I worked in the business world, and I got very concerned about the use of the world “corporate” as a synonym for a lot of evil stuff. (And, of course, the corporate form of business came about the same time as the scientific and industrial revolutions.) At the same time, I was, and am, completely for robust regulations and oversight. So I did the best I could to try and demystify issues for people, as well as get them to think more clearly on the topic. The only thing was, I found myself in a number of situations in which the argument I was making was useless because the other person lacked my specialized knowledge. Then, I was just in the position of saying, “Trust me.” I wasn’t trying to sell the person on the unmitigated benefits of unrestrained capitalism, nor was I trying to tell them not to worry their heads about it, leave it to the experts, but we’d come to the point at which our perspectives were irreconcilably different because of our knowledge bases. One of us had the insider perspective, and one of us had the outsider perspective, and both are valuable and important, but it was very hard to find common ground on it. And yes, I think sometimes people did take me for an uncritical business booster, rather than someone just trying to open a more sophisticated dialogue.

  125. Don’t worry, I didn’t get that feeling from you – but generally from some other people here in the past couple days, yes. And thanks for that, I’m glad you understand!

  126. “You, too, can keep off massive amounts of weight if someone pays you loads of money to eat as little as it takes and spend all your time exercising!”

    LOL THANK YOU. So fucking true. That’s what kills me every time I see those Jenny Craig ads. Particularly the latest Valerie Bertinelli one, where she’s talking to the couple about the program as if she personally designed it. If you’re so knowledgeable about food, why be on the program in the first place? Oh, right — you’re not, you’re just reading off of the teleprompter. Same goes for Phylicia Rashad, strutting in there, talking about how she “thinks she looks pretty good!” … but goes on to talk about how much weight she lost in the first 4 weeks.

    Those poor spokespeople are now condemned to a life of eating shitty, processed food that is probably worse than the junk they were eating before. The minute they stop, they’ll blow up like balloons. See Kirstie Alley for reference. Notice she’s keeping a pretty low profile these days.

  127. I just realized that, in my comment to volcanista above, I gave the impression that I have spoken to a person with more than one head. I have not. I deeply regret any inconvenience this may have caused.

  128. Same goes for Phylicia Rashad, strutting in there, talking about how she “thinks she looks pretty good!”

    Oh, it’s just breaking my heart to see Phyllicia Rashad shilling for Jenny Craig. You know what Phyllicia? You DO look pretty good. You look a lot better than most women can hope to at your age. No need to eat flavorless prepackaged Jenny meals. You’re completely freaking gorgeous, and you must be in your sixties by now, right? Why not just enjoy your life rather than suffering to lose ten pounds?

  129. Sugar throws her two cents in:

    I have to admit, for me it’s a feelings thing when it comes to “choose processed-chemically stuff today, or not?” In the end, how much I like the product or whatever is the bottom line, but I do have to admit that I like “natural” stuff and that’s partly a personal pref thing and, yeah, it’s partially a spiritual thing. Rubbing a mint leaf for the scent makes me feel close to nature in a way eating a Junior Mint does not (I do still enjoy the occasional Junior Mint though, and chemicals be damned). And let’s face it, essential oils (produced by the chemists of the old, old olden days, lol) just plain smell good.

    As for my hair, as long as it’s cheap and will make it stop being ugly, greasy, flaky, dry, or whatever way it’s choosing to be annoying today, I don’t bloody freakin’ care what’s in it… well okay as long as it also doesn’t kill me would be nice. Just all this talk got me thinking maybe my skin (which is quite sensitive) has something to say about shampoo and THAT is what makes my hair hate me, and maybe, MAYBE I’m not doomed for all time to have shitty hair if I try something new.

    Maybe.

    Of course now my mom is yelling at me that I shouldn’t listen to any of you and my hair will be gross forever if I don’t use shampoo. LOL.

  130. As yet another curly-haired chemist, I think people are getting the food definition of organic and chemical definition confused. Organic food means grown without synthetic chemicals, organic or otherwise. As far as chemistry, organic means carbon containing, as in living things and things that were living, such as hydrocarbons, etc. My entire organic chemistry class was mostly about petrochemicals. Inorganic is non-carbon, such as salts, minerals, etc.

    I wash and condition with Mane-n-Tail conditioner, much cheaper than anything else that works, as my hair is difficult. I only do it enough to keep it from dreading (3-4 days)

  131. I’m just going to add that I’m a curly-haired lass who misses my ringlets. I am going to try to reduce my ‘poo use and see what happens. My hair looks better in its native environment (where I grew up) and has been frizzy beyond repair since I moved 1,000 miles north.

    There’s a woman I’ve seen around with the most beautiful curls and I need to ask her what she uses. I think my hair is different from hers but still, it can’t hurt to ask. I appreciate the curly hair tips.

  132. This will probably put me in direct opposition to strong-feeling no-poo folks, wellrounded, but I am fond of various curly and straight hair creams and gels that reduce frizz and either smooth or enhance/define curls. It’s a bit of a pain shopping around for ones that work just right with your hair, because they never seem to come in tester bottles, but the successful hair product match can be pretty awesome! And if you’ve already shopped around and didn’t find anything that worked and that was your point, never mind, sorry!

  133. wellroundedtype2, harking back to the chemicals discussion, perhaps you will take heart, as I do, from this quote from Laurence J. Peter (of the Peter Principle fame): “Some problems are so complex you have to be highly intelligent and well-informed just to be undecided about them.”

  134. Volcanista, I have tried various things but I hate spending money on things that aren’t right for me, and most stong scents of any kind make me sneeze, so it’s hard to find the right thing. Years and years ago Bath & Body works made this strawberry-scented creamy mousse-like conditioner that worked like nothing else to produce gorgeous shiny ringlet-y curls that made me feel absolutely gorgeous. But they stopped making it. (shaking fist now). I haven’t ever really recovered.
    Thanks for encouraging me to keep looking, though. My best bet is to ask women with gorgeous curls what they use.
    And Richelle, that is a great quote. I feel I’m just intelligent and well-informed enough to be undecided about a great many things.

  135. For those of you wondering about the price of LUSH, try ordering from the UK site (it will take longer, but about a week for me). Cut your shampoo and soap bars into little squares and just use one after the other. Keep water away from them. They will last longer this way. This is probably helpful for other soaps too. :) I find that up front LUSH is a little pricey, but with their products, a little goes a long way so I find myself saving money.

    Also, reading this blog post and its comments is just what I needed after a day of mentally beating myself up.

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