Are We Bathing Too Much? Confessions From a Former Germaphobe

Are We Bathing Too Much? Confessions From a Former Germaphobe | janny: organically.

Antibacterial soaps are in the majority of our homes. You'll find antibacterial hand spray or gel in the average purse or diaper bag. Bathing once or even twice a day is the social norm in America. But is all of this doing more harm than good?

The arrival of indoor bathing facilities to most homes in the 1930's and 40's was a game changer. It was crucial for maintaining hygiene and eliminating many infections as most occupations were outdoor or hard labor jobs in fields, farming and plants. The workers were usually covered in dirt, grease and grime at the end of each day so they desperately needed daily baths and didn't always get one! 

Today, while many of these physically demanding jobs still exist and thrive, most of the work has shifted to indoor white-collar jobs. In the 90's we welcomed antibacterial household products and so began our obsession with over sanitizing. 

As your body's largest organ, your skin strives to protect you. It is covered in layers and oils that protect against intruders. While your skin needs regular cleaning to operate effectively, too much cleansing can actually disrupt your skin's natural process and protective barriers.

Bathing too often can:

  • Remove sebaceous oil from the skin (sebum) which
    • protects your body from environmental factors like dirt, dust, bacteria and viruses
    • helps keep your skin hydrated, without it your skin appears more wrinkled and dry
    • contains the antioxidant vitamin E which helps your skin repair as well as protect your skin from the sun's rays
  • Disrupt the the pH levels of your skin
  • Disrupt the balance of good bacteria
  • Cause dry skin
    • The response to this is generally to moisturize, which only treats the symptom, not the cause. Additionally, most moisturizers contain dangerous ingredients which are linked to cancer, hormone-disruption, asthma, allergies, organ toxicity and more.

Now let's just state the obvious. We all know that one (or more) person who needs to shower every day. I'm willing to bet there is an underlying medical cause for it, but let's just agree that some people have some odor issues. But most of us should be showering 2-3 times a week without issue. In the summer time with sweating, maybe that's another story, but I'll be the first to admit that I hop in the shower every night, partly due to routine, regardless if I'm smelly or not. I prefer to shower nightly to rid my body of dust or allergens so I don't take them to bed with me. But that can actually be taken care of by a quick rinse with just water.

The bigger concern is the overuse of soap, antibacterials and excess scrubbing. Speaking of, let's talk about those antibacterial hand soaps, sprays and gels.

The FDA has recently questioned the safety of these soaps, particularly the use of certain ingredients such as triclosan and triclocarban which are registered pesticides used in most antibacterials and even many toothpaste brands!

The recent entry of products containing antibacterial agents into healthy households has escalated from a few dozen products in the mid 1990s to more than 700 today. Antibacterial products were developed and have been successfully used to prevent transmission of disease-causing microorganisms among patients, particularly in hospitals. They are now being added to products used in healthy households, even though an added health benefit has not been demonstrated. Scientists are concerned that the antibacterial agents will select bacteria resistant to them and cross-resistant to antibiotics. Moreover, if they alter a person’s microflora, they may negatively affect the normal maturation of the T helper cell response of the immune system to commensal flora antigens; this change could lead to a greater chance of allergies in children. As with antibiotics, prudent use of these products is urged. Their designated purpose is to protect vulnerable patients.
— Stuart B. Levy, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts

Get Dirty

Overuse of antibacterials are now linked to allergies, weakened immune system and gut flora since it is impeding our body's ability to produce healthy gut bacteria. (I see auto-immune diseases written all over that).  So while we have been focused on keeping a sterile environment, it seems to be backfiring on us. 

Simple hand washing with soap and water still remains one of the most effective ways to decrease the risk of spreading infections after preparing food, using the toilet, or after coughing or blowing your nose.
— David Hill, director of global public health at Quinnipiac University's medical school in Hamden, Conn.

The recommendation is simply that: wash with plain 'ole soap instead of antibacterial agents. And while bathing too often can pose problems, our choice of soap can be even more disruptive to our bodies.

Furthermore, dirt is actually beneficial to us and our kids! Organic and uncontaminated soil is a rich source of good bacterial, microorganisms and beneficial minerals. 

[The immune system at birth] is like an unprogrammed computer. It needs instruction...Children raised in an ultra-clean environment are not being exposed to organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits.
— Dr. Joel Weinstock, director of gastroenterology and hepatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston

Get Clean When Absolutely Necessary!

So let your kids play in the dirt often, just make sure it's "clean" dirt without chemicals and pesticides. And once it is time for bath, what shall you bathe with?

Aleavia Skincare recently sent our family their prebiotic body wash and shampoo for my family to try out. I was intrigued by Aleavia's product line initially because of their ingredients and philosophy about skincare. 

Their product differs from the mainstream cleansers because their ingredients feed the friendly microorganisms on your skin to promote the growth of good bacteria, which then fights off the bad bacteria. 

Most of you probably know that when you take an antibiotic, it kills good and bad bacteria, so its so important to replenish yourself with probiotics in order for your immune system to work properly. The same is true with your skin. If you bathe with chemicals that are killing good and bad bacteria on your skin, you're body's natural process to fight off bad bacteria is disrupted!

Aleavia's ingredients are simple and organic:

  • Aloe Vera (Hydrating, soothing and healing)
  • Soy Lecithin (Softening, soothing, antioxidant, emollient)
  • Kelp (Stimulate metabolism, provide balancing minerals and vitamins)
  • Coconut Oil (Softens, protects, heals, restores)
  • Plant Glycerin (Humectant, emollient)
  • Citric Acid (pH balancer, preservative, wrinkle-reducer, skin-brightener)
  • Sea Salt (carrier of magnesium, calcium, potassium)

I asked their owner, Kelly, about the ingredient content and how it varies in product to product. 

Our body wash has 30% more coconut oil than our facial cleanser. Our baby formula has 25% more Aloe than our face wash for sensitive baby skin issues like diaper rash or baby eczema. Our sprays are 50x’s more concentrated in our prebiotic formulas (they includes much more Kelp, which gives the spray the brown color because of all the iodine properties Kelp contains) than our cleansers for more serious skin conditions like acne, rosacea, dry scalp, dermatitis and psoriasis that people are plagued with on a daily basis. The spray really ramps up the good microbes on the skin and cause them to multiply much faster than just using the cleansers alone.
— Kelly Graham, Aleavia

Washing with a prebiotic cleanser not only cleans your skin effectively and keeps the good bacteria growing, but usually will clear up most skin conditions in the process - think eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, sun spots, etc. The body wash they offer can be used as a shampoo and they also offer products for acne, diaper rashes and even diabetic wounds!  I've read many testimonials about this product, and I've been using it for about a month now and can say that my dry scalp is effectively gone! 

I noticed that when I bathed my daughter every night as part of her bedtime routine, her body developed sporadic red bumps and drier skin. Even with organic soap, I was disrupting her body's process. We now bathe her every other day or two and the bumps are gone and her skin isn't nearly as dry.  

I personally would recommend bathing with a "clean" cleanser/shampoo like Aleavia 2-3 times a week and if you need to shower daily, like me, on the "off days" just rinse with water and clean the couple necessary parts ;)

If you aren't ready for to make the jump to a prebiotic cleanser just yet, please check the ingredients on your current shampoo, conditioner, body wash and soaps! Look them on on EWG or download the ThinkDirty app. My other recommended clean products (including bath products) can be found on my Beauty-Routine post from a couple months ago.

If you decide to give Aleavia a try, take advantage of the 20% off coupon code available for my readers. Just enter the code: jannyorganically20 at checkout. 

Keep that good bacteria growin' my friends :)