These people no longer shower and rely on bacteria on their skin to do soap’s job.

Surprisingly, they say they don’t smell.

skin microbiome, effect of soap on skin microbiome, skin microbiome sopa, skin microbiome cosmetics
A growing number of people are eschewing soap and trusting bacteria to do the job instead. Picture: via DSM

A growing number of people stop using soap and start trusting bacteria to do the job instead.

David Whitlock for example has not showered or bathed for 15 years, yet he does not have body odour. His primary motivation is to encourage friendly microbes to live on him in symbiotic harmony. The bacteria get to feast on the ammonia from his sweat and he gets low-maintenance, balanced skin.

He recalls that it was kind of strange for the first few months, but after that he stopped missing it. “If I get a specific part of my body dirty, then I’ll wash that specific part” – but never with soap.

Indeed, as well as germs, soap gets rid of the skin’s protective oils and alters its pH level.

In contrast, the trillions of microbes (bacteria, viruses and fungi) that make up your skin microbiome protect us from pathogens and keep us healthy by making vitamins and other useful chemicals.

Yes, think about eczema, acne and problems associated with dry skin… A healthy skin microbiome could be one of the solution.

Sarah Ballantyne, an advocate of living in a more “stone age” way, also uses only water to wash. She explains that over time her skin has adjusted and she doesn’t smell. Maybe is her microbiome healthy!

Dermatologists also say there’s nothing wrong with just rinsing. People who haven’t used any kind of detergent in years are perfectly fine.

However, since 1950, we have gone from bathing once a week to every day. And this strange behavior has changed our skin microbiome and is most prbably behind the rise in inflammatory skin diseases. Again, scientific evidence is lacking in this field. There are no studies demonstrating the negative effects of soap or overwashing.

But there is still one area where most agree that soap is still useful. Washing your hair and your body has very little to do with hygiene. But washing your hands is essential.

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