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Ditch the Soap: Take Care of Your Skin Flora

Ditch the Soap

I’m going to tell you something that might gross you out.  I’ve stopped washing my hair and my skin.  Yuck, right?  Let me explain…

I’ve actually been on a mission to reduce the use of soap on our bodies. After battling eczema and psoriasis and just plain winter dry skin, I know soap isn’t good for it.  When my dermatologist told me to stop using soap, I think I gave her a blank stare with my jaw on my chest.  It took me time to wrap my brain around that.  Now soap plays a very small role in keeping us clean. Pretty much just our hands ever touch soap.

Now before you start avoiding me and worrying that I have the hippy, BO stench, I don’t.  Surprisingly I smell like…nothing.  And yes, I’ve double checked with many others.  Most people don’t really smell themselves because they are so used to the smell.

Back to Bacteria

I talk a lot about bacteria on this site but not how most people are used to.  Bacteria can be our friend.  There are some bad bugs out there but the vast majority of bacteria are not only good but vital to our health.  Bacteria on our skin are important too.  Betcha didn’t know that. A daily shower with soap washes a lot of those good bugs away.  Anti-bacterial soaps and hand gels should not be used ever.  They are not as awesome as we once thought.

“These findings suggest that our much-ignored commensal skin bacteria play an important role in fending off infections. So perhaps all of those antibacterial baths are having effects that are more than skin deep.” ~http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/07/26/skin-bacteria-are-your-friends/

(Go read the above article.  It’s good stuff!)

The bacteria ON our skin are just as important if not more than gut bugs for the skin’s immune response.

And check this out:

“The reason goes beyond a simple issue of clearing space for the invading bacteria to move in. Instead, the researchers suggest, the reason for worse infection hinges on interleukin 1 (IL-1) signaling, an immune response that the helpful bacteria can influence. “Resident commensals are required for optimal IL-1 signaling in the skin,” Naik and colleagues wrote. And that means that they, in turn, “are necessary for optimal skin immune fitness.” Past studies have implicated IL-1 signaling in psoriasis as well as asthma and arthritis.” ~http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/07/26/skin-bacteria-are-your-friends/

Did you read that?  A good bacteria balance in your gut and on your skin can possibly affect psoriasis.  That’s good news for me!  I’ll let you know how this works for me.  I haven’t had a psoriasis or eczema flare up in almost 2 years.  I’ve always thought getting my gut in order was the reason.  Getting my skin flora in order is icing on the cake.

Keep the Natural Oils

Soap not only washes away bacteria but all the natural oils your body produces.What is the best moisturizer for your skin and hair?  Your own natural oils are the best.  Heck, that’s what they are made for.

Washing it off everyday and sometimes twice a day makes your body produce more oil which can lead to oily skin and oily hair.  Good news is, you can retrain it.  Just be prepared to be a grease ball for a time.  Your body will get the message and stop over producing.  It took about a week for my face to get the message and my hair took quite a bit longer.  Ponytails and hats were my friends.

What Do I Wash With?

Now your probably wondering what I do wash with because we have to wash with something, right?

For my face, I wash using the Oil Cleansing Method and have for a couple years now and I moisturize with tallow.  My skin has never looked or felt better.  It’s not oily or greasy and no I don’t get clogged pores or zits anymore.  You can read more about that here: How I Cleared Up My Skin. The only things I do different now is tallow instead of coconut oil and I don’t use baking soda to exfoliate anymore.

For my hair and body… you’ll have to wait for the next post 🙂

 


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28 comments to Ditch the Soap: Take Care of Your Skin Flora

  • Scott

    I’m glad to hear that it’s not likely that my sense of (self) smell went away with most of my gut problems. I have noticed that since I have been treating my gut better and replaced all bad fats with plenty of good fats, I don’t have to worry about body odors nearly as much. My hair and skin would get a rancid smell, the oils on my nose always smelled rancid, I felt I had to use the most powerful antibacterial soaps and antiperspirants, and odor eaters. Now, with just a mild soap and Tom’s deodorant, I don’t have any worries about body odor. I’ll have to try soap free for a while too.

    • Awesome, huh? I haven’t needed to use deodorant in years. I just don’t stink anymore. I’ll post more on that next too.

      • Suzy

        Hi Melanie, i too enjoy not buying deodorants any more, havent for years. Its just a marketing ploy. My hubbie and i just wash ourselves and funnily enough a lot of folk comment how nice i smell and i smile to ,myself. One thing i despise the smell of is men’s doedorant- it stinks.

  • Olivia

    So.. does this mean that i should not use apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, etc on my acne because i don’t want to kill the good bacteria as well as the bad? I have been thinking about this for a while.

    I tried only rinsing my hair with water… I lasted about a week. It was so greasy, I just broke down and massaged a bit of baking soda through it. Not sure if I can tough it out for many weeks. Does it actually stop being greasy? Can’t imagine.

    • That’s a good question that I’m not really sure about. Finding the root cause of the acne is what helped me the most. Eliminating wheat and cutting back on grains and sugar is what really did the trick. Grains can be inflammatory, exacerbating acne. Cleaning with castor oil and olive oil removes the pore clogging dirt without drying your skin (thus your skin doesn’t over produce oils anymore either).

      I’ll write more on the hair thing (hopefully by the end of the week). It does takes time, some longer than others. Getting through the yucky time was so worth it for me though.

    • Tarc

      None of those things will significantly harm your normal skin microflora. We do a teaching lab where we have a student scrub with a sterile surgeons pad for 13 minutes, and you only remove about a third of normal microflora.

      • Thanks for you comment, Tarc! As I’m reading more, I found the same conclusion regarding skin flora. Soap doesn’t remove that much of it. Soap is still very drying for me and replacing the oils while better still doesn’t feel as good as the natural oils.
        My thoughts concerning soap are just for the body, not hands. We use soap and scrub our hands to prevent transmitting germs (like MRSA) to others.

  • I have been on this same thing for quite a long time and recently my 6-year-old came down with a MRSA infection in his lymph nodes, which made me re-think a lot of my more natural cleaning methods. I have never used antibacterial products, we all eat more than a healthy share of probiotics and immune building foods and do everything “right,” but still he was in the hospital for nearly a week and taken nearly a month to recover. While I do agree, with most of this, my recent experience has left me jaded to the natural way of cleaning, however I am slowly coming back.

  • Tarc

    Hmmmm. Well, you have some good points, but you only got a small part of the science right, especially about the microflora. The best thing you mention is that antibacterial additives are completely unnecessary, if not dangerous (in the case of Triclosan, in particular). There is nothing wrong with regular soap or alcholol-based hand sanitizers (that don’t have extra chemicals); in fact, they are not only useful, superior to soap with antibacterial in combination, but also perfectly safe and the very best way to remove transient bacteria without harming normal skin microflora. In the case of psoriasis, your skin junctions are not as strong as normal, so in areas where skin is taught or bent, lots of of irritants can penetrate. Normal skin oils help a lot, but washing normally (again, to remove transient bacteria like MRSA) and replacing them with different oils that don’t irritate you in particular is also excellent. Olive oil, vaseline, palm oil, etc. are all possible options.

  • Lorina

    Eagerly awaiting your hair & body post! I have been messing around with my hair washing to try to cut out/ down on chem exposure….but it hasn’t been going well….:/

    • Hi Lorina! Sorry! I was hoping to get it out last week but the week got away from me. In the meantime, hair is tricky. Once it gets used to being washed frequently, it gets really oily when you don’t. It can take 2 months or more to regulate. I stopped washing it Dec 24 and just rinse it with hot water every other day, sometimes every day if it’s really oily. I washed it once with just a touch baking soda about 2 weeks ago to get some of the oil out. Since then, my hair has been much better. I have a couple more tricks to dealing with the oil that I’ll expound on in the post. It’s hard getting through the mega oil period but man is it worth it. My hair has never been softer and more healthy looking.

  • Regarding Tarc’s comment above, I could be reading it wrong but I have to disagree if s/he is claiming any kind of sanitizer is preferable to soap and water. Numerous studies have confirmed again and again that handwashing is preferable to any kind of hand sanitizer. Also, using Vaseline (a petroleum product) to remoisturize not only makes no sense, but is decidedly unhealthy.

    Now to my question for you, Melanie! Is there any particular reason you stopped exfoliating with baking soda, or did you just find your cell turnover rate adapted and you no longer need to? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Jenn, I only stopped because I just felt like I didn’t need to anymore. I assumed it was because the washcloth I use with the oil cleansing did the job. I hadn’t thought of my cell turnover rate changing.

  • […] Ditch the Soap: Take Care of Your Skin Flora […]

  • Tiffany

    Hi Melanie – I have been living with psoriasis for the last three years and although the majority of my skin is better, I still have some residual issues. Can you share, via personal email or on this post, how you believe you were able to rid yourself of these issues. I know that you make reference to “checking your gut” but what specific steps did you follow? The other sites I’ve read about gut health have you doing A LOT of stuff which feels very overwhelming for someone just starting out. Any guidance you have would be great.

  • Ah, good to see more info on the bacteria! I wish they taught this stuff in schools, lol.

    Regarding the removal of only 1/3 the flora, it is still a good thing since you are able to give the good guys a chance to move in and populate the area, and thus reducing the overall bad guy population. For most people who constantly sanitize and disinfect everything, it’s the opposite. Every time I see someone slathering hand sanitizer, I often think “well there goes the good and bad guys… Once you use a keyboard or grab a railing, who knows what kinds of nasty things are going to repopulate your skin?”

    Thanks for taking a stand against ignorance!

    -Yossif

  • Sidra

    Hello Melanie I’m new to your site, I would like to use the oil cleansing method, my skin gets weird and I am getting break outs, how does it work and what do I need?? Thank you

  • Kris

    When preparing food, what do you do? Do you use soap on your hands? If so, do you recommend a brand or ingredients?
    Thanks!

    • Yes, I definitely use soap to wash hands. I mostly just don’t want to overdo using soap. I prefer to use handmade bar soap with all natural ingredients. I’m lucky enough to have a friend who makes great soap.

      • Kris

        Thanks for the reply. I was thinking about trying a natural soap with tea tree oil in the kitchen to kill off bacteria after handling raw meat, but keep wondering if that’s any better than the anti-bacterial that I’ve been using. Any ideas? (Sorry for all the questions!)

  • RustyBShackleford

    I stopped using any kind of soap to wash my body and face with last year. I use only water and a wash cloth. I smell like NOTHING. My face? Perfect. I’m sure I’ve spent multiple thousands of dollars on high end cleansers, scrubs, moisturizers, etc. over the years (Clinique, Lancome, Neutrogena, etc., etc.). Well, I have found that water is all I need to keep me as clean as a whistle! And I know my body has by now colonized itself with the healthy bacteria that soap
    used to kill because my underarm body odor used to be atrocious without the use of soap and deodorant. Now? WIthout using deodorant and after sweating profusely, I barely smell anything at all. Check out the New York Times article on this phenomenon (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/25/magazine/my-no-soap-no-shampoo-bacteria-rich-hygiene-experiment.html). It is real. The only part of your body that requires soap is your hands. That. Is. It. Save yourself a lot of money and be healthier and cleaner!

  • […] you now. However, as you reduce your toxic load, you may find that you do not need as much soap. Soap strips your skin of its natural oils and good bacteria. I started by only washing my “pits and bits,” and then getting the rest of my body if […]

  • amy

    Can you link the article about how you wash your hair? I can’t find it.

  • Frank V.

    Great article – I have read an article before about oil washing and a smooth stick to gently remove residual oil. I have been researching a lot science and otherwise. Looked into ursolic acid and other such things to see if it would drastically improve skin issues. I looked into dogs and if they have the ability to transfer skin bacteria. Dandruff and trying to remember the first time I had noticed. For me we have had dogs and cats right around puberty so it is difficult to blame dog or ca5s. May look into specific breed. Chemicals makes a lot of sense. I have read about fasting and watched partially a documentary about fasting. Water is my next concern. Dehydration and ph balance of skin I find very interesting. I stopped drinking tap water. So hopefully this article will help me and my stratum corneum layer.

    This is the article that led me to your article.
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022202X15529011#bb0080

    I am trying to better understand these 2 strains maybe there is a more simple solution., M. globosa and M. restricta. I have read that when people that come from other countries eat wheat from United States they have issues not all people but some. Due that bit of info I am looking into articles about unmodified wheat varieties and how to reintroduce wheat to my body and how to properly eat whole grains. So thanks again for you article I found it to provide hope and will give suggestions a try.

    Sincerely,

    Frank V.

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