When I went to The Gambia for my two year stint in the Peace Corps I took a gallon of Mill Creek shampoo and a gallon of its conditioner. I figured that if my hair smelled familiar I could certainly live in a village for two years. The hair products did not last that long, and what I discovered was that there were perfectly fine beauty products to buy when I arrived–not in my village, but where expatriates frequent. I have to admit, having my own brand did offer some comfort in the early days of getting used to living without electricity or running water.
Generally, I’m not much of a personal hygiene snob and will use what’s available most of the time. But, honestly, there are those bars of bright pink soap that I’ve come across in certain hostels and cheap hotels that made me wonder what exactly I was putting on my body. Often the label says something like “Beauty bar” or some such thing. I seem to recall seeing Lux soap this color, but according the Lux website, Lux is a soap fit for movie stars. Perhaps, what I saw was a Lux knock-off similar to the Colgate toothpaste knock-off I wrote about in another post.
I did do some research on soap to see if there’s anything dangerous in some brands. How does mercury sound to you? According to this article, mercury is used in some soap in sub-Saharan Africa to make skin and hair lighter. So, what to do? It’s probably a good idea to be a little choosy when traveling where brands aren’t so familiar. The soap in the picture isn’t exactly the kind I’m talking about. This one was posted by Andy Atkinson on Flickr and is from Vietnam.