Guest Post: Bathing daily can actually be bad for you?

Did you know that latest research suggests that bathing daily can actually be bad for you? While it’s important to wash wounds clean and keep the soot of the day from building up and attracting colonies of bacteria, the chemicals inside even the most sensitive of soaps and body washes have been shown to do a considerable amount of destruction to the epidermis. The reason soaps do such a great job at getting you fresh and clean is the same reason they’re so corrosive on the top level of skin; soap molecules glob onto loose pieces of dirt and dead skin and carry them off with hot water. While this mix gets you squeaky, it also removes the majority of the epidermis, which consists mainly of dead skin that acts as a sort of hardened shield against the elements. Once removed, the skin underneath becomes susceptible to infections and other ailments.

You have to remember that the daily bath is a relatively new concept for human beings. Once upon time, and we’re only talking the first 180,000 years of humanity’s 200,000 year existence here, we bathed as often as we encountered sources of water that weren’t immediately used for drinking. In other words, hardly ever if not never did prehistoric humans rub-a-dub-dub. Flash forward to recorded history,– the Roman Empire with its famous baths and indoor plumbing – and humans are bathing on a once-a-week basis if they’re of privilege, and typically in the same vat of water that hundreds of other dirty bodies had washed in previously. It sounds disgusting, but you have to keep in mind that this was the majority of our existence. Our DNA still thinks we’re being born and bred on the plains of Africa, and so as much as our modern society promotes the idea of washing up once a day, our bodies don’t like it very much. Our bodies want to be dirty.

But this is the world we live in. Even if the idea of going a day or two sans douche sounds appealing to you, it probably won’t smell very appealing to anyone around you. Body odor is another relatively recent human experience. Beforehand, you kind of just got used to people smelling bad before you could talk and then didn’t care about it until you died. That’s neither here nor there however, so if the only way to preserve our epidermis is by being funky, what can we do to save our skin and our social lives?

Instead of washing up vigorously at the end of the day, simply run some warm water over your body and if you must, use a gentle soap conservatively. Afterwards, pat dry with a towel, don’t rub as this kind of abrasive motion is likely to do further damage to the epidermis. Use a natural skin care lotion or cream to replenish the protective oils and particles that kept your skin healthy. That way you can avoid harming the forgotten human organ while also smelling good.

We’ve come a long way from the Sub-Saharan land of our genesis, but societal impositions on our bodies have oftentimes moved at a pace independent from both practicality and rationality. Our society is one where smelling good is more important than ever before, even if, strictly speaking survival, smelling bad isn’t that big a deal. Once you understand these wayward dynamics weaved into the story of the human experience, you can begin to see how humans “are born free, yet everywhere they are in chains.” Your chain may simply be the one attached to your bath plug.

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Sheena Tatum

is the founder of Sophistishe. She's a free spirit, wife, boy mom, rental rebel, curator of pretty things, lover of vintage pyrex, and the tropics. Sheena can be found in NW Indiana with her husband and two scrumptious boys, clutching kraft paper, chalkboard paint, sriracha and chipotle pepper. In the midst of motherhood, wifedom, and managing a growing collection of digital projects, she somehow manages to find zen in being a quirky, introverted, lil’ lady.

10 Comments

  • Reply October 13, 2013

    Ann Olerud

    Try using aloe vera gel as a deodorant. It has properties of keeping bacteria to a minimum wherever it is applied. It’s the bacteria that makes the odor. I buy 100% aloe vera gel, no colors, no preservatives. I am in my 60’s and my skin does not like daily bathing anymore. And the water where I live smells like 100% chlorine coming out of the tap. Try Cetaphil gentle skin cleanser dry, just the product and a dry wash cloth. Works great for me on my face, underarms, everywhere. I moisturize all over with 100% sweet almond oil. People tell me I look like I’m in my 40’s. I wash my hair in the sink twice a week. My skin is in great shape and the softest ever. It’s the media telling us we smell bad so we have to use all the products covering shelf after shelf in our stores. Remember, everything we put on our skin goes into our body.

  • Reply June 13, 2011

    Jeff Hendrickson

    I never even thought of any of this that way, but I guess you’re right. Smelling good isn’t that important in a survival sense, but it sure makes you easier to be around!

  • Reply May 29, 2011

    DIY Hair Care Blog

    To each his own on this one.

    With all the things in the air and how unhealthy many people it’s just a bit unhealthy (IMO) not to bath everyday. Your putting all those germ back into your bed where you sleep.

    I’m sorry but, I don’t believe that people in ancient times didn’t bathe. All it took was a large bucket and rag, people had that back then. They even speak of soap in the Bible and washing yourself clean.

    People didn’t just roam around like animals or something, they were smart and well adjusted human beings. You would be amazed at the knowledge people of ancient times possessed.

    I guess it’s just a difference of opinion. Even with hair washing, you atleast wet your scalp to get the sweat off and product buildup.

  • Reply May 29, 2011

    Kathleen

    I’ve been doing this for months now, and the other day I used some body wash after working in the garden and getting sweaty and my skin paid for it. It was so dry and flaky. I think my body had adjusted to just water showers, rather than soap. I still wish I could do it with my hair, but I found I don’t have the patience for the water/vinegar/baking soda thing. I tried it, but ended up going back to shampoo. Though now I find I only need to wash my hair 2-3 times a week before it gets oily.

    • Reply May 30, 2011

      Sheena

      I tried water/vinegar/baking soda in my hair and I didn’t have the patience for it either. I still like a little suds here and there in my hair. Until introducing him to facial washes, Greg only used water on his face and has (still has) the clearest skin ever! Grrr!

  • Reply May 29, 2011

    CanCan

    For several months now I have stopped using hair products and lotions and things. Now after I dry brushing my skin, I bathe with locally made shampoo and natural soap and then dry off and put on coconut oil in place of moisturizer. I even use it to hold my hair in place and instead of deodorant. It sounds crazy and I haven’t told many people. But it works and my skin and hair are super soft. And shiny. :)

    • Reply May 29, 2011

      Sheena

      I am amazed at how less = more. I rarely use shampoo anymore. I copoo with a natural conditioner and use olive oil, essential oils, and aloe vera gel in my hair. My hair started growing like a weed when I started putting less in it and washing it less. I try to use natural soaps that I order from Vitacost and Etsy, but often times I grab a cheap body wash from the grocery store if I can’t find St. Ives wash. St. Ives lotion and shea butter are the skin moisturizers of my choice. I’m still looking for a natural deodorant. I haven’t told anyone that I use Men’s Degree :). It’s all I trust and it comes in a two pack so Greg and I can share! Hahaha!

      • Reply May 30, 2011

        Samantha Sophia

        Seriously men’s deodorant! I rarely wear deodorant these days, I have been trying natural alternatives, like baking soda. My sister has had adverse reactions to them so I don’t trust traditional deodorant all the way. I feel you on the natural soaps, I love them!

        • Reply May 30, 2011

          Sheena

          I’d have to work up some serious courage to use baking soda. I have a serious phobia of being publicly tart, lol!

          • May 30, 2011

            CanCan

            You could do a trial run on a day you will be home and not doing yard work. ;)

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