Cleanliness is next to Godliness, right? Or so we thought… recently, an article appeared on Buzzfeed entitled “How Often You Really Need To Shower (According To Science)“. It states that:
According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, how frequently we shower and what we perceive as body odor is “really more of a cultural phenomenon.” Boston dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch echoes this sentiment. “We overbathe in this country and that’s really important to realize,” she says. “A lot of the reason we do it is because of societal norms.”
Zeichner and Hirsch say that showering too often (particularly in hot water) can dry out and irritate skin, wash away the good bacteria that naturally exists on your skin, and introduce small cracks that put you at a higher risk of infection.
Both doctors say that parents should not bathe babies and toddlers daily. Zeichner says that early exposure to dirt and bacteria may make the skin less sensitive as you age, and prevent allergies and conditions like eczema.
So it appears that bathing often can have negative effects on skin, and not enough exposure to dirt and bacteria may be bad for babies (also known as the hygiene hypothesis). They continue on to say that we should decrease showering to about every 2-3 days. Sounds relatively reasonable?
However, last year, there was an article in the New York Times Magazine called “My No-Soap, No-Shampoo, Bacteria-Rich Hygiene Experiment“. It described the idea that using soap removes good bacteria from skin, and that there is a company called AOBiome that makes a mist spray loaded with good skin bacteria, specifically, ammonia-oxidizing bacteria called Nitrosomonas eutropha. This bacteria is easily removed by soaps and cleansers, but if present on skin, provides benefits that include:
“Acting as a built-in cleanser, deodorant, anti-inflammatory and immune booster by feeding on the ammonia in our sweat and converting it into nitrite and nitric oxide.”
This spray mist is now available for purchase, but it is quite pricey. In the article, it says that company states that this product may help diminish one’s dependence on soaps, as well as moisturizers and deodorants, after a month’s use. Especially exciting is the following statement in the article regarding treatment of certain skin conditions such as eczema:
In-house lab results show that AOB activates enough acidified nitrite to diminish the dangerous methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) [associated with eczema]. A regime of concentrated AO+ caused a hundredfold decrease of Propionibacterium acnes, often blamed for acne breakouts. And the company says that diabetic mice with skin wounds heal more quickly after two weeks of treatment with a formulation of AOB.
So, for those of us who can’t afford this spray, what to do? I guess we can decrease showering frequency, use soap only on odor-producing parts of the body, and not use any products with sodium lauryl sulfate (a strong detergent found in hygiene products), in hopes that we can manage to grow good bacteria on our skin. And wait for the product to get cheaper? Or as they mention in the article, wait for the list of “bacteria-safe” cleansing products…