Non-bathing hippies claim they don’t smell. Color me skeptical. Excerpt:
David Whitlock has not showered or bathed for 15 years, yet he does not have body odour. “It was kind of strange for the first few months, but after that I stopped missing it,” he says. “If I get a specific part of my body dirty, then I’ll wash that specific part” – but never with soap. As well as germs, soap gets rid of the skin’s protective oils and alters its pH level. Although Whitlock appreciated gaining an extra 15 minutes a day from soap-dodging, his primary motivation was 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.
Just as awareness of the importance of the gut microbiome has led to a boom in probiotic and fermented foods and supplements, there is increasing interest in our skin microbiome: the trillions of microbes that protect us from pathogens and keep us healthy by making vitamins and other useful chemicals. In this unprecedentedly sanitised era, in which eczema, acne and problems associated with dry skin are rife, consumers are hungry for solutions. Even the mainstream brand Dove claims vaguely that its products are “microbiome-gentle”.
Bald assertion does not an argument make.
I’m reminded of a guy I knew in the Army that everyone called “Stinky.” Every basic training company had one, I’m pretty sure; ours had to be “convinced” to shower regularly by being dragged in and scrubbed with the floor brushes.
I’d bet a substantial amount of money that these odoriferous folks don’t work at a job where they get dirty or sweaty. Not too many people these days seem to know what it’s like to have a job where you have to shower after work, but boy howdy, I sure remember what that’s like.
And there have been times when returning from deer/elk season that the shower water has run off me grey. In such a case, I’m damn well using soap.
Soaps clean well because they are surfactants. They break down oils and greases and float them right off your skin. I don’t use antibacterial soaps, not because I’m worried about my skin’s “microbiome” but because I think you can be over-sanitized to the point where your resistance is weakened.
I suppose, then, that there’s such a thing as being too clean. But there sure as hell is such a thing as being too stinky.