All those long hot showers you’ve been taking are doing your body more harm than good. Not to mention all that wasted water, soap, and energy running down the drain. But while we’ve always been taught that scrubbing the skin from head to toe is a necessity for modern man to function in society, now experts say, it’s really not that important. Instead, you should only concentrate on three body parts. But what about the rest? Well, a little rinse with warm water is apparently all you need.
Save water, energy, and your skin
The average American family uses about 40 gallons of water per day showering. This equals 1.2 trillion gallons of water used each year in the U.S. for showers alone. What’s more, since the average person uses hot water, showers are also energy hogs. But beyond wasted water and energy, one doctor now says all that showering may be harming the largest organ on your body — your skin. Assistant professor of dermatology, Sandy Skotnicki, MD., from the University of Toronto, has challenged how modern-day human’s wash. She recently told The Atlantic that the act of scrubbing your body from head to toe with soap and water could lead to skin conditions like eczema.
While it’s not known what exactly causes eczema, researchers believe it’s the result of genes and external triggers. Triggers like fragrant soaps and antibacterial washes can cause itchy, red, and painful skin — common symptoms of most types of eczema — suggests the National Eczema Association. Also, skin that’s too dry, from long, hot showers, can easily become tight, scaly, rough, and brittle, leading to a flare-up. The solution, says Dr. Skotnicki, is to spend less time in the shower and only focus on these three body parts: Underarms, groin, and feet.
Over-stripping the skin may rid your body of good bacteria
Our bodies are not meant to be sterile, and having some bacteria on the skin is perfectly natural and healthy. Unfortunately, we’re learning the hard way that too many antibiotics create an antibiotic-resistant society. But what about our need to strip away all bacteria from our skin — bad and good? Robynne Chutkan, MD, the founder of the Digestive Center for Women in Maryland, tells Health that by scrubbing yourself clean each day in the shower, you’re actually stripping away bacteria from your skin that helps keep you eczema- and acne-free. In fact, a study published in Science Advances found people with a specific strain of bacteria living on their skin have a lower risk of skin cancer, compared to those who don’t have the bacteria.
The problem with soap
What exactly is wrong with soap, you ask? Well, according to research, most soaps are made by mixing oil or fat with an alkali like lye. This changes your skin’s pH, destroys healthy bacteria, and strips away important oils. And, pH does matter. Healthy skin has a pH of around 5.5, which is slightly acidic. However, studies suggest most traditional soaps have a much higher pH — even as high as 11. When your pH is too high, your body fights back by producing excess oil. Studies show that skin with a higher pH tends to produce acne. So, cleansing your skin soon turns into a vicious cycle predisposing you to acne over and over again.
So, why use soap on the underarms, groin, and feet?
You may not need to soap-up your entire body, but certain areas need good cleansing like your underarms, groin, and feet. The reason: These areas retain more moisture, and fungal organisms love moisture. In addition, because these areas are more sensitive, they’re more likely to harbor potentially harmful bacteria and ingrown hair, which causes infections.
Instead of soap, try dry-brushing your skin
If you’re not familiar with dry brushing, it’s all about massaging your skin daily with a dry, bristled brush or loofah. It’s an invigorating scrub that stimulates the nervous system while also brushing away dry, flaky skin. It also increases circulation and detoxification by promoting drainage of the lymph nodes, suggests the Cleveland Clinic.
But why use a dry brush instead of just brushing your skin in the shower? Because dry-brushing lets you exfoliate, unclog pores, and increase circulation without stripping your skin of its vital moisture under hot water. In fact, the best time to dry brush is just before your shower. This way, the water will rinse away the dead skin cells. Word of caution, never dry brush over burns, cuts, scrapes, or inflamed skin. Also, if your skin becomes irritated or inflamed, then stop dry brushing. Additionally, don’t use a dry brush on your face; this skin is just too delicate.
Are you ready to stop wasting water, soap, and energy? Consider how soap can change your skin’s pH, strip it of natural oils, and negatively impact the healthy bacteria that live on your skin. Maybe just washing your underarms, groin, and feet isn’t such a bad idea after all.