Preface: this is a post about bodily functions. I don’t think it’s disgusting, but then again, I wrote the thing.
Confession: I don’t use soaps and shampoo anymore.
Over the last 10 to 15 years I’ve developed some itchy, dry patches, mostly on my scalp and chest. I was able to ignore them, sometimes well, sometimes not so well. I went to several doctors, and got different answers about what exactly the issue is. One suggested using a particular ointment (didn’t help much), another told me to switch to a different shampoo (didn’t help much), the third said there’s not much I can do about it: it’s a hereditary thing, don’t worry about it (cheers for that). Yet all of them were content that these small’ish, itchy, dry, red patches are utterly harmless and not a contagious disease, so I guess that counts for something.
Annoyed by the lack of conclusive information, I started experimenting. Different soaps, different shower gels, different shampoos, in various combinations. Over the last few months I went with just a dash of shampoo, followed by quick rinsing, towelling, and then using some mild body milk to calm the skin, because that’s what worked at that particular time.
But holy shit, the situation was annoying.
Then, about two months ago, I decided to drop shampoo, soaps and shower gels altogether for most of my body. You know, for science. I’m still taking a quick shower every two or three days but I just use the warm water to clean off dirt and sweat. I only use a wee bit of shower gel for below the belt (yes, I’m talking about my MANLY MAN PARTS, people), but otherwise, water is enough. And yes, I allow myself to use deodorant, and I wash my hands as often as before. I’m not an animal.
And sure enough, about 10 days in, the red blotches started to vanish. Apparently the human skin is able to take care of itself if you let it. Who’d have thought‽ And interestingly enough, my skin got …better. Less easily irritated. And no, I do not smell worse than before — so says my wife, and trust me, she’d tell me. ;)
Basically, what I am trying to do is similar to what Julia Scott wrote about in her NYT story “My No-Soap, No-Shampoo, Bacteria-Rich Hygiene Experiment”, minus the added bacteria, that is. (If you haven’t read that article, you should, it’s super-interesting.)
I think we forgot that the bacteria on our skin are there for a reason; scrubbing them off each day and then applying some chemicals to counter the effects of them being gone strikes me as counter-intuitive.
So I’m trying to giving them some room to breathe — it works for me, that’s all I can say.