When I read in the gossip columns that "Eminem brushes his teeth with pest spray", I thought for a moment he'd started to mix his own chemical-free cleaner- baking soda can both clean your teeth and repel bugs-, but it turns out he has joined the ranks of other celebrities like Sandra Bullock, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu who believe in the magic of the 18-uses-in-one natural soap Dr. Bronner's. "Eminem is obsessed with the soap", a source divulged, "He can't believe he is able to clean his teeth and his body with the same product while he is showering." Besides it's reputed effectiveness for cleaning both body and home, it's also touted as a deodorant, shaving foam and mouth wash so apparently Eminem has now eliminated all other toiletries.
The rapper doesn't have a rep for being a greenie- the only reference I could find to him being natural was when he gave up his chemically-created blond hair-, so I was curious what would inspire this move. I called my only friend who has met Eminem, Planet Green host SuChin Pak, who also happens to wash her hair with her floor cleaner.
"I'm shocked that Eminem brushes his teeth with that", said the MTV veteran who has interviewed the performer numerous times. "It's so surprising but I also think Eminem is the type of person who's kind of danced to the beat of his own drum. He's just used to doing things that not everybody gets. He's a first in a lot of ways just in general in his career. You know it wouldn't surprise me that he's the guy who is suddenly embracing some sort of healthier lifestyle."
What makes Dr. Bronner's- and other more "natural" brands- healthier are the ingredients left out. Most conventional soaps and shampoos contain potential endocrine-disruptors like parabens (used as preservatives), phthlates (often disguised as "fragrance") and triclosan (also found as a plaque-fighter in toothpaste) and potential carcinogens like diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA).
In contrast, Dr. Bronner's ingredient list doesn't require a chemistry degree to decipher. For their popular Hemp Peppermint Pure-Castile soap, the active ingredients are not chemically-manufactured compounds, but plant oils (coconut, olive, hemp, jojoba); the fragrance is peppermint oil and mint plant; and the preservatives are Vitamin E and citric acid.
It sounds really healthy- for you and the environment-, but without the strong detergents and foaming agents, it might work to clean your dishes, but does it work to clean, say, your hair? On my last visit to New York, I stayed with SuChin and tried shampooing with some of her floor/dish/clothing cleaner- a Dr Bronner's equivalent she'd discovered at her local drugstore called Dr Woods- and found it a bit lacking. I loved the smell and that its ingredients were so basic- very similar to those found in Dr. Bronner's-, but it left a residue in my hair.
A bit skeptical that someone who was named one of the world's most beautiful by People Magazine in 2004 actually used this stuff on her hair, I asked SuChin if she too had ever had a buildup problem. "I get more residue from using regular shampoo", she responded, adding that while it may not work for everyone, "the trick is you wash your hair with that and then you have to really comb your hair through after you take a shower that way the natural oils from your scalp are distributed through your hair".
It is now her shampoo, but she started using the product as a floor cleaner, dish and laundry detergent. She raves that it has replaced nearly "all the chemicals in my apartment". I asked her if she'd consider mimicking Eminem and using something like Dr Bronner's on her teeth? "Sure. I would, but I use Tom's [of Maine]", she responded. "The toothpaste thing really freaks me out. The thought of putting some sort of chemical directly in my mouth..."
To avoid painting her as some eco-purist, let me state that SuChin is no saint when it comes to chemicals in her bathroom. During my stay with her, I snooped around a bit and found plenty of parabens and phthlates in her cosmetics (see the video I shot with her in bathroom), but she says she'd prefer to avoid chemicals, when possible. "That's the thing about the green products. If push came to shove I still would use an effective product. If it came to 'here's the real natural stuff that's organic and here's the one that's got some chemicals in it', if the organic stuff didn't work then I wouldn't sacrifice. But my point to that is that with the Dr Woods shampoo it works better than my regular shampoo".
To check the ingredients in your shampoo, or to check out a new product, see:
* The Environmental Working Group's product safety database
If you'd prefer to be sure of exactly what you're putting on your hair, here's a simple recipe for a homemade shampoo (which I tried for this video and was surprised at how well it worked):
* 1 tbsp baking soda per cup of warm or hot water (or simply add enough water to baking soda to make a paste).
* Rinse with 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice or apple vinegar.
Follow Kirsten Dirksen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kirstendirksen