Do we wash too much?

Do we wash too much?

Do we wash too much?
Do we wash too much?
We have never soaped as much as we do today in the history of humanity. But is it really necessary? What if we spent all that time in the bathroom for nothing?

Because we love the morning shower to wake up, the one after the sport to cool off and the end of the day to relax, we are many to shower daily or more than once a day. "We do not need to wash the same way we used to when we were all farmers," Katherine Ashenburg, the author of the book on the history of personal hygiene, told The New York Times. on Clean: An Unsanitized History (unfortunately not translated). In fact, we never needed to wash so little; yet we have never done so much. "


In Western countries, daily showering has become almost the norm. But where does this need to feel clean permanently come from? Some point the finger at the cosmetics industry, which succeeded thanks to a brilliant marketing operation to convince us that we must at all costs stop the "bad smells" bodily.

So we apply to soap, to rub, to exfoliate. Then we come out of the shower with dry and itchy skin, so we put cream to rehydrate. Same thing with our hair. We are thus entering a vicious circle that encourages us to accumulate products in our bathrooms, resulting in a market for body care and personal hygiene extremely lucrative. According to a study conducted by Euromonitor International, Canadians spent $ 1.6 billion in 2011 on creams and skincare.

Of course, between the polluted environment and the infectious diseases that circulate, washing is far from useless. "The purpose of washing is to remove all deposits on the skin, such as dust, makeup, sunscreen and dead skin, but also to eliminate the secretions of the body glands that create the odors, as well as the pathogenic bacteria, "summarizes Dr. Marie-Claude Houle, dermatologist specialized in contact dermatitis and occupational.

The World Health Organization has been hammering us for years that washing hands saves lives. But there is one step you can not take: you can not sanitize your entire body ...

We hear more and more about intestinal microbiota, but we must know that the skin is also populated by a set of microorganisms.

"The cutaneous microbiota is made up of about a thousand billion bacteria. They are grouped into two categories: the resident flora, which consists of bacteria that have colonized us - sometimes from birth - and that accompany us over long periods of time, and the transient flora, which is made up of bacteria that go and come according to the activities of the day, "explains Patrick D. Paquette, a certified microbiologist and president of the Association des microbiologistes du Québec.

In 2007, microbiologists in New York announced they had spotted 182 different species of bacteria on the skin, each person having a skin flora that is clean and changes over time, according to including its diet, its environment, its diseases and drugs, cosmetics and clothing used. "The bacteria are not evenly distributed on the skin. There is greater diversity and abundance in the wetter areas of the body, such as the armpits, soles and groins, compared to drier areas, such as arms, legs and back, "continues Patrick D Paquette.

Some of these bacteria are harmless and others are pathogenic, that is, they can transmit an infection. Together, they form an ecosystem able to regulate themselves. However, when we wash too much, we disturb the playground of microbes on our skin, not only getting rid of the pathogenic bacteria of the transient flora, but also eliminating a good part of the resident flora, which must be recolonized.

"The skin is like an armor, a castle, and the resident bacteria are the little soldiers who are there to fight the pathogenic bacteria, the fungi or the yeast that can try to infect us and create dermatitis and dermatitis. skin infections, "says the microbiologist.


In the light of this information, many wonder if there is no nonsense to destroy every day the natural ecosystem of microbes on the skin with a "bar of soap". Among them, the head of the health section of the American magazine The Atlantic, James Hamblin, also medical specialist. After focusing on skin microbiota for an article, he has reduced the number of showers to a minimum and has not used soap, deodorant or shampoo for more than a year. Has it become the oily and stinking beast that we imagine? At first, yes. "But after a while, the ecosystem reaches a state of equilibrium where we stop feeling bad. I do not feel the rose water or the products Ax for the body, but I do not feel sweat either. I feel the human rather than feel a product, "he wrote about his experience.

There is already a certain craze for no poo, or "without shampoo", which consists of washing hair as often as possible and without "chemical" shampoo in order to preserve the natural oil of the hair. But can we do the same thing with the body?

In other words, will the no soap, or "no soap", remain a vaguely hippie thing or will it become the next trend? Because, despite the experience that seems conclusive for the journalist of The Atlantic, would we really want to live in a world where no one is washing?

"In people who do not wash at all, we sometimes see an accumulation of dead skin and dirt that ends up forming what is called hyperkeratosis retention, says dermatologist Marie-Claude Houle. These brownish bumps can become infected and thus create ulcers. They are also a fertile ground for the development of fungal infections such as severe athlete's foot. "If the no soap followers do not go to these extreme cases, it is because they still take the trouble to clean oneself with water and wash oneself.

We often forget it, but the water also cleans it. But some odors resist this strict minimum ...


Dermatologist at the University Hospital of Quebec, Dr. Joël Claveau was interested in body odor.

"Contrary to popular belief, sweating is odorless. It is the secretions of the apocrine glands, located in the armpits and groins as well as under the breasts in women, which give off an odor. An odor that is even more pronounced when the secretions are colonized by certain bacteria, "he says.

Body odor can be caused by inadequate hygiene, but it can be due to a genetic predisposition, a diet rich in spices (garlic, caraway, curry), excessive consumption of alcohol, certain conditions (diabetes, urinary tract infection, renal or hepatic insufficiency, overactivity of the apocrine glands) or certain skin infections. The hairs also favor the bad odors by retaining the secretions, which causes a multiplication of the bacteria.

In short, we all have a body odor of our own and an intensity (let's say it politely) variable.

"The body odors have already been useful to humans: they were used as signals of recognition or seduction, while today, we seek to eliminate them," says Dr. Claveau. Too, maybe.

Who ever came out of the shower feeling that her skin had turned into a wet suit two sizes too small?

This is because, when you wash, you remove the dirt and dead skin, but also sebum, the precious natural oil produced by the skin to allow it to maintain its hydration. "Too much showers cause skin dryness, which can lead to problems such as eczema or contact dermatitis, which are allergic reactions," says Dr. Marie-Claude Houle. Then, as the skin thins and loses its ability to maintain its hydration over the years, the risk of developing these problems increases with age.

In a report from his If Our Bodies Could Talk series (he also published a book with the same title),

James Hamblin explains that the daily shower and the powerful soaps unbalance the skin flora and force it to regenerate quickly, which favors the bacteria that produce the bad smells. So, the more we shower, the more we smell, and the more we smell ...

A real vicious circle, what!


We are certainly not all ready to say goodbye to the shower and the soap, but most of us would surely gain time and money to rethink their relationship to hygiene, in addition to reducing their footprint environmental protection and to avoid possible skin diseases. We can start by decreasing the frequency of passages in the shower, especially winter and days where we did not sweat a drop, and spacing the shampoos.

The use of soap can also be reduced by reserving it for the armpits, pubic area, groin and soles of the feet.

The idea, finally, is to rethink our personal hygiene and, above all, to come to terms with the bacteria on our skin.

Do we wash too much? Do we wash too much? Reviewed by Unknown on février 18, 2018 Rating: 5
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