Here’s a new popular beauty trick: Get softer, sweeter-smelling skin while saving money and time. How? Stop using soap!

Soap-free living has been embraced by some au naturalists for years, but the soapless clean phenomenon started making big blogosphere news when Los Angeles blogger Sean Bonner revealed on BoingBoing that he’s been living soap and shampoo-free for a year — and looks, feels and smells better as a result.

Since then, at least two soap-free challenges have launched! The GOOD Challenge encourages all to give up soap and shampoo for a month, while No More Dirty Looks’ No-Soap Challenge simply asks you to give up soap for five days.

To be clear, neither challenge is 100 percent soap-free. Both challenges recommend washing your hands with soap — a good exception, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the practice — and the No More Dirty Looks challenge adds your face and nether regions to the list of soapables. Interestingly, I discovered today that the CDC doesn’t actually mention soap in its tips for preventing urinary tract infections. (“Cleanse the genital area before sexual intercourse” is as far as the recommendations go.)

Use that bit of info as you will — and consider these other points when picking your challenge. According to Sean, his dry skin condition and dandruff issues didn’t clear up until a couple weeks into his almost soap-free experiment. Apparently, it took a little while for his body to adjust, so things got a little worse before they got better. That means that No More Dirty Looks’ challenge, though it sounds shorter and easier, may not be long enough for you to experience the full benefits of soap-free living.

But the No More Dirty Looks challenge is the only one with a prize, which certainly will make it more attractive to some. Dash off a quick, 100-word or less story of your soap-free lifestyle for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to NuboNau, an eco-luxe beauty and personal care boutique we’ve raved about here. Whether or not you decide to use your prize to buy soap is up to you — but you’ll at least have the funds to opt for the greener, nontoxic, Triclosan- and weird chemicals-free soaps.

How are the challenge-takers faring so far? About 10 days into the challenge, Cord Jefferson at GOOD sounds like he's already a no-soap convert:

My hair, while not long or historically a problem, has been called soft, and my skin's been called softer. Blemishes on my face and body have decreased noticeably, and, best of all, coworkers, friends, and strangers have all acknowledged that I do not stink. Not even a little. The evidence is stacking up and, increasingly, my view is this: No chemicals, no problem.
Think you'll take the challenge?
Is soap-free the new clean?
Two challenges encourage you to find out if no soap and shampoo can mean soft skin, dandruff-free hair, fewer chemicals, and more money in your pocket.