When it comes to personal hygiene, most of us have a tendency to over (rather than under) compensate, but is it possible to be too clean?
Well, believe it or not, the answer is YES. While the old saying: "Cleanliness is next to godliness" may have applied centuries ago, we now know that over-washing/showering can actually have a detrimental effect on our skin.
In fact by over scrubbing, or bathing too often we are literally removing our skin’s natural protective layer (the acid mantle), in much the same way that we’ve compromised our planet’s global protective layer ... the ozone layer.
So, what exactly is the "acid mantle"?
This natural protective layer is a combination of the sweat from your sweat glands and sebum (your skin's natural oil). The two are secreted onto the surface of your skin providing a barrier to external threats such as bacteria, viruses and pollution.
This risk of over-washing isn’t a new concept. In fact, I wrote about it several decades ago in my book titled “Healthy Skin Secrets…Naturally” which is still available on Amazon today. And, if these recent articles are anything to go by, it appears that others are also starting to support this theory…
In his Business Insider article titled “You're probably showering way too often” Rafi Letzter states the following: “... a compelling argument suggests that showering regularly rids your skin of essential oils and organisms — and is therefore bad for your health, your scent, and the balance of life on your body. A growing body of evidence, in fact, suggests that our shampoo-scrubbed lifestyles, along with a number of other factors, are damaging a complex system that science does not yet fully understand: the human microbiome.”
In his article on The Atlantic.com titled “I Quit Showering, and Life Continued” MD writes: “12,167 hours of washing our bodies. That’s how much life you use, if you spend 20 minutes per day washing and moisturizing your skin and hair (and you live to be 100, as we all surely will). That adds up to nearly two entire years of washing every waking hour.”
He then goes on to add: “The odor of bodies is the product of bacteria that live on our skin and feed off of the oily secretions from the sweat and sebaceous glands at the base of our hair follicles. Applying detergents (soaps) to our skin and hair every day disrupts a sort of balance between skin oils and the bacteria that live on our skin. When you shower aggressively, you obliterate the ecosystems. They repopulate quickly, but the species are out of balance and tend to favor the kinds of microbes that produce odor.”
For those of you who are now feeling a little confused about how much or how little to bath, a simple rule to bear in mind is: “if it foams, it will strip.” In other words, the more chemicals you apply during the bathing process, the more likely you are to damage the acid mantle. When you think about it, the whole idea of removing oils from the skin via cleansing and then adding them back in the form of a paid-for moisturizer, seems kind of loopy (not to mention a waste of money). Of course this is great news for all the cosmetic companies profiting from the general public’s paranoia about hygiene – just don’t expect them to come “clean” any time soon.