This post is basically the same as the podcast I posted but goes a bit more in depth into the science and our societal hygiene norms.
So why is this relevant? Well by adopting a plant based diet you are taking steps towards loving and respecting your body. This expanded consciousness you have developed by adopting a plant-based lifestyle has you start questioning other societal norms you are apart of (similar to the meat and dairy industry).
Because you adopt an alternative lifestyle you make an internal shift towards thinking more (or thinking at all) critically and think why am I even doing these things. How are they impacting me? The environment? Other beings? Or who is benefiting from a system that I am apart of?
That’s where hygiene comes in – we are completely bombarded everyday!! With products which we “need” to use. They latch onto and exacerbate our insecurities of being smelly, getting old, not having perfect skin, yellow teeth, needing perfect hair, having pimples, having sweat marks etc etc etc. Pretty good business model right? We go to these products looking for a fix and then we get it but with what side effects?
What exactly are in these products that we put into our mouth, all over our skin, inside our private parts, in our eyes, on our face in our hair?
Through my own personal experience and through experimenting I have found that by not using hygiene products and showering less, I have become a lot healthier, I feel and look better, more natural, I save time, I save money, and I’m not impacting the environment with nasty chemicals or waste.
We are obsessed these days with being clean. Even if we spend the day in an office or doing nothing all day we feel like we need to shower everyday, some people even feel like its necessary to shower twice a day!
Now I can understand that there was a time when bathing was a privilege, which explains why it became so popular. But it got me thinking, what if all this bathing isn’t good for us? What if keeping up this practice of being super clean and smelling like roses is in fact something we could do without.
So don’t get me wrong, from my research I found that yes to stay healthy and hygienic it is extremely important to bathe and wash our bodies, but you can in fact shower too much or be showering a way in which it is detrimental to your skin.
Why is this? Well the first layer of your skin (called the stratum corneum) is made up of dead skin cells and lipids (or fats), which protect the layer underneath. Every time you shower, especially a hot one, with soap and a scrubber you slough off this protective layer, leaving the skin exposed to bacteria and viruses, dryness, itchiness eczema and chemicals.
Just like a healthy stomach includes bacteria so does healthy skin. Showering less often and allowing good bacteria to grow on your skin actually allows them to develop antibodies to protect against bad bacteria.
Practical: So then what’s the answer? If you are sedentary then they recommend showering every 2-3 days. So shower less, but also when you shower make sure the water isn’t too hot, you don’t use a scrubber and ideally your drip dry or pat dry. Between showers it’s always good to keep the ‘smelly spots’ clean with a wet towel.
Soap and Shampoo:
So we need to shower but do we really need to use soap? And more importantly are the soaps we use safe?
Again using soap is considered the norm and going against it seems crazy! Personally I think certain natural soaps or products are great for getting rid of harmful bacteria and dirt. But using your congenital soap for your daily 1-2 showers really isn’t the best idea.
Well hold on a minute that must mean then that before these products were invented everybody walked around smelling to high hell? OR maybe after millions of years of evolution our body and skin has evolved natural oils and processes by which it cleans its self and exists in a natural healthy equilibrium? Surely not.
Well I thought I’d experiment. For about the last 1-2 years I have shifted to not using soap or deodorant and instead showering every 3-4 days with just water. Keep in mind I am a runner training for a 100 miler so I exercise for over an hour everyday, usually in the same cloths and I sweat profusely.
So the results, well after all this time I can honestly say I don’t smell. I truly believe that by allowing my body to perform its natural task without removing the oils and dead cells, my body has found an equilibrium where my body is able to control the bacteria and I have developed a functional skin micro biome of good bacteria, which keeps the bad bacteria out, hence no smell!
So that’s all very nice Dylan but what about the science. Robin Shutkan, who is a big name in the micro biome research going on at the moment, says that by scrubbing ourselves daily with harsh chemicals we are stripping our skin of good bacteria. In fact she says that being in contact with dirt is healthier.
Simply put, dirt doesn’t cause disease but repeatedly stripping of the good bacteria may harm our immunity. And in fact being in contact with dirt and grime teaches your body to distinguish between friendly germs vs. foes.
Traditionally soap was made form oils and salts, but now with they are considered detergents due to the chemicals they contain.
Tricosan: Classed as a toxic carcinogenic pesticide by the EPA, tricosan removes bacteria and was a chemical used in the deadly Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War. It is stored in your fatty tissues effecting your immunity, lungs, kidneys and heart. Sweden has even gone as far to clear it from their shelves.
Sodium Lauryl/Laureth/dodecyl Sulfate
This is what makes your soaps all bubbly. Get this in lab tests SLS is used as a skin irritant. It works by dissolving protein and because our skin hair and gum tissue are made of protein it causes massive damage to our cell structure.
This is what’s used it give soap its moist smooth look. Petroleum based, its used as a solvent in the paint and plastic industry and to remove barnacles from boats. Workers are required by the EPA to wear gloves and masks when disposing of PG solutions by burying them and concentrations are higher in beauty products. They remove essential oils from our skin, increasing the look of aging and exposure to bacteria.
Others: Other chemicals to be wary of are DEA’s (hormone disrupting chemicals), fragrances (which can be some of the worst as companies don’t have to say what they use) and color pigments. Basically if it smells amazing, looks and feels great, don’t use it. The best smell is no smell.
Environment: Synthetic soaps made today contain potassium. When this potassium enters our waterways it has the nasty effect of over supplying algae with nutrients. These create algal blooms, which create dead-zones, which is literally a body of water where no life exists. Basically all of these chemicals that are bad for us are washed down the drain and enter the environment.
So practically, there are actually some good soaps our there. Basically you want to go with the least ingredients and stay away from any chemicals you can’t pronounce. Check out the linked article to get more information. For me personally just using good old water works for me.
I mean what are you expecting me to say? Its pretty obvious right, other products like moisturizers, deodorants, anti-aging creams, makeup, toothpaste, hand soaps, hair products etc all contain similar concoctions of harmful ingredients. And remember companies are not made by law to tell us, the consumers, what is in their products we put onto the biggest organ in our body. It’s not about completely boycotting hygiene, just like adopting a vegan diet isn’t boycotting eating. It’s about making the effort to explore and find a healthier approach to personal hygiene, for you, the planet and others.