02/12/2014 12:27 pm ET Updated Apr 14, 2014

The Caveman Approach to Beauty

Even the Flinstones couldn't, at least in my view, put a positive spin on cavemen. So when I was told about the latest beauty trend, Caveman Regimens, my reaction was: "That's gross." Adherents of Caveman Beauty are as zealous as those Paleo diet people; I was assured by a colleague that her teenage children had a sophisticated theory about not washing and the body's natural pH balance. That's just the grunge generation being precocious, thought I. But then stories about people not washing their face or hair started to come at me from all directions. I needed to take a serious look.

Members of the great unwashed have a ritual. They don't wash at all for some weeks or even months and then they use only water, or water and vinegar or water and baking soda. There is much talk about natural oils, pH and scalp scratching (with fingernails). Some of the claims defy logic.

There's a woman (I believe the kindest thing is to withhold her name) who hasn't washed her hair for three years and claims that "hair doesn't really get dirty". Perhaps not out on the tundra, but in New York City, trust me, there's grime and it gets on to your skin, under your fingernails and in your hair.

Another woman boasts that her hair is softer and fluffier since she moved to a once a week vinegar and baking soda regimen. It is fluffy, but in a weird cotton ball kind of way. And this brunette has gone an odd sort of blonde, as the color has been washed out by years of vinegar applications.

The other day I met a woman who doesn't cleanse her face. She just splashes some water over it. I can understand foregoing soap, as many cleansers are lethal concoctions that seem to be formulated by sadists to cause skin breakouts. But a splash of water isn't going to remove dirt, or properly exfoliate the skin. Unwashed skin is as dull as dishwater and looks old.

A cautionary tale is told by a reporter on xoJane whose caveman regimen aged her "by ten years in a month and half". Her complexion became ashen, overrun with dead skin cells and blotchy. She, like many others, stopped washing her face in an attempt to prevent acne breakouts. The theory is that sebum regulation will start to normalize when you stop washing.

In my experience, many facial cleansers do cause breakouts because of the harsh surfactants and chemicals. But that doesn't have to lead to a binary decision between crappy shampoo and no shampoo, toxic cleanser or no cleanser. This is Neanderthal thinking. But let me tell you about the missing link: There are good and safe products out there, shampoos and face cleansers that do no evil, none whatsoever. They do remove dirt though.

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