I just love a freshly scented bath with a nicely textured soap. 🤗
Textures are a huge deal for many autistic people; touch can make or break an autistic person’s vulnerability to meltdowns, shutdowns, anxieties, and other “bad day” stuff.
For instance, I used to wear sweatpants in elementary school (despite bullying) because jeans stripped me of all concentration; walking, sitting, lying down, all I could think about were the jeans aggravating my skin.
Combining Nose, Skin, Eyes, Mouth & Ears
Because of my relationship with textures and sensory sensitivity, even though I’m visiting soaps as part of my week-long celebration of aromatherapy, I won’t be listing specific scents today.
I’ll be writing about texture.
I’d like to build upon the suggestions I gave in my previous explorations of depression and anxiety blends—and how to use them in diffusers and topical applications—by taking aromatherapy to the next level with combo sensory stimulations; and this will extend beyond textured soaps into:
- tomorrow’s post on candles and visual stimuli; and
- Friday’s post on bath bombs, music, and auditory stimuli.
(I’m staying away from sensory sensitivity and taste for now, because I’d like to play with that bag of marbles in the beginning of July, when I spend a week on autism and diet.)
Soap and Moisture
Have you ever thought about the aftermath of your soap?
Most people with complex skin have to face this demon; but if you’re one of the lucky ones who can mediocre-soap up to bliss, you may not realize your autistic loved is spending all night itching like they’re on fire.
Interestingly, since autism is often interwoven with autoimmune issues, you may also have some skin conditions on your hands beyond the sensory sensitivity; as an example, I have eczema. If you’re in that boat, moisture becomes ever more essential.
If you have an autistic loved one, especially a nonverbal or echolalia autistic, you may have to do this footwork for them; but if you’re autistic, and trying to figure this out on your own—or if your loved one is a talker (or writer!)—it’s worth journaling and/or talking about:
- What’s your soap doing while you shower?—is it unpleasant to soap up?
- What’s your soap doing an hour after you shower?—do you feel better or worse?
- Do you itch throughout the night?
- Do you experience rashes?
My Recommendation for Moisture
I live for coconut soap.
My favorite store for purchasing goat’s milk soap is on Etsy, not Amazon: Maiden Hill Farms. (I also like to get my bath bombs from here!) Purchasing from Maiden Hills supports an entrepreneurial artist—and her prices are more affordable than other soaps of similar quality on Amazon or bath shops—so it’s a double win.
I’ve been meaning to try out her yogurt soaps… She has a peppermint yogurt soap, and if you’ve been following this blog, you know peppermint’s my go-to for anxiety.
You may be surprised to know, even though jeans drove my child-self cray-cray, and bug bites are like a death sentence to my epidermis, I absolutely revel in exfoliating soaps.
Admittedly, I enjoy exfoliating soaps too much… as a teenager, I’ve rubbed and rubbed and rubbed, until I’ve taken off skin. I’ve rubbed myself into burning sensations. Into Band-Aids. These experiences are actually what made me think, Might be good to write a blog post about texturing bath time.
So what’s the deal with con-jean, pro-exfoliation?
My Recommendation for Exfoliation
Sugar scrubs and salt scrubs were my original exfoliation choices, and these made excellent options because:
- the oil they’re stored in (which is very soft and fun to play with!—slippy-slidy!);
- their limited life-span (they dissolve relatively quickly, so it’s hard to over-rub); and
- their ease of application (they slather on, then you can gross motor skill it everywhere with your hands—vs. the frustrating task of manipulating a pumice tool with fine motor skills).
However, sugar scrubs and salt scrubs are often over-perfumed. A surefire way for an autistic person to blossom a fresh headache is over-perfuming. (I once had a coworker who wore perfume that turned into migraines.)
Today, I instead lean on gardener’s soap, which comes in all kinds of varieties. For instance, this Etsy store offers soap made from ground apricot kernels and coffee, while this Amazon store offers soap with tea leaves:
Exfoliating bars from the grocery store were my gateway into rubbing myself into a rash. It’s important to find a soap that, if you decide to stim, the accumulating effects won’t be harsh; at least, if you’re a shower stimmer.
I’m a total shower and bath stimmer, since it’s one of the few places I am alone. I know I will not be shamed for stimming in the bath.
And therein also lies the curious answer to why jeans felt bad, but exfoliation felt good: the environmental control. The freedom of self-stimulatory motions. You can’t peel your jeans off and go romp around school naked. (Although movies make it seem like undergrads do this…?) You are trapped in those scratchy-scraping jeans until you get home, and if you peel them as you walk through the door, you may yet spark social upset. Jeans felt like a prison.
But exfoliating soap is a choice-based stimulus—and a super strong one!—so the same sensation that was once irritating can suddenly become enabling. You get control over when and how your senses are stimulated (or over-stimulated), and this helps you take back a sense of normalcy in a sensory barrage of a world.
With that in mind, the absolute best exfoliating soap—guaranteed to always feel safe, maximize stims, and clean the dirts off you—is loofah soap.
Loofah soap is made by growing these awesome gourds, chopping them up into soap-sized chunks, then pouring soap onto the chunked plant.
I’ve been meaning to grow loofah and make the soap myself, with my depression blend of frankincense, lavender, and grapefruit. If I made that soap, then sold it on Etsy, would you be interested in purchasing a bar? Let me know in the comments!—or tell me about your own experiences with textured, creamy soaps.
Kourtnie has an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and a BA in English from CSU Fullerton. When she isn't writing or making art, she's moonlighting as a professor at community colleges. Read her writing at Kourtnie.net or Wattpad.com/user/KourtnieNet.