I get confused and overwhelmed every time I go to the drug store to buy bath and body care products. There seems to be something for every beauty need, including needs that I didn’t even know I had, less existed in the first place. A friend of mine mentioned that she once bought a special conditioner designed for cleaning her special makeup brush. Think about that for a moment.
When I lived in Somaliland, I remember there was one ubiquitous soap. It was THE soap available for sale in every market or street stall. It was called Top Soap and it was a powdered soap that came in a box; you just added water and it became sudsy. There was also bar soap called Warda.
We used Top Soap to wash our dishes and also to wash our clothing (both of which we did by hand, of course). We also used it for household cleaning. The guys I lived with even used it in the shower for washing their hair and body. That was taking it a bit far for me (I had brought shampoo and conditioner from abroad).
But, my point is, Top Soap worked for everything. Because soap is, after all, SOAP. But that doesn’t seem to be the case in the US. Not only is there one type of soap for washing your clothes (“detergent”) and another type of soap for washing your dishes (“dish washing liquid”), but there are even multiple types of personal soap: hand soap, body soap, face soap, and hair soap (“shampoo”).
There also appear to be multiple ways of applying the personal soaps to your body, from a sponge to a loofah to a scrubber to a body brush. When I was living in Liberia, a friend of mine gave me a loose length of plastic mesh. He used it for washing himself, and had cut off a piece of it and given it to me so I could do the same. It is nothing more than a long rectangle of polyester mesh, the same material that is used to make the mesh pouf sponges that hang in showers across America. It works as well as a shower loofah, or any other over-engineered self-cleansing shower accessory – all you do is rub a bit of soap on it (bar or powder, take your pick) and it quickly lathers up into a ball of soapy suds that you can use to wash your whole body (and hair, if you like).
In certain African countries, like Ghana and Ivory Coast, you’ll see vendors carrying strips of this polyester mesh on the street, and for a few cents they will cut off a stretch for you. Pair that with a bar of soap and, voilà, all of your personal hygiene needs are met.