Billions of Skin Bacteria is a Good Thing. Learn How to Keep Them Happy.
We Americans have a constant focus on being clean. We have a cleaning solution for just about everything. We’re obsessed with washing our hands. We enjoy a daily, hot shower. And hand sanitizer is always within reach.
While there are many advantages to living in a clean society, being too clean can wreak havoc on your skin. And, it can actually make you sick.
By cleaning too much and too harshly, we’re not not only stripping away our skin’s natural oil, but we’re also disrupting colonies of bacteria that live on our skin. Yep. That’s right. Our skin is host to up to 1,000 species of bacteria, and scientists are learning that having diversified colonies of bacteria helps prevent skin conditions as well as keep out the bad organisms that make us sick.
So should we never shower again?
Heck no! A bacteria and oil build-up can also cause problems, let alone a huge stink. To maintain healthy skin and a healthy body, ya gotta have balance, just like everything else in life.
So how can we maintain a healthy balance?
In addition to eating clean, drinking lots of water, getting regular exercise and maintaining a positive outlook on life, here are three things to avoid to ensure your bacteria continue to thrive.
1. Avoid ingredients that let you lather up too much
Any cleansers or soaps that produce an abundant, bubbly lather most likely include one of two evil ingredients that strip away too much of your bacteria and natural oil.
These manmade chemicals to steer clear of are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate (commonly referred to as SLS). Manufacturers choose to use SLS because it’s a lot cheaper than using natural ingredients and the majority of the population thinks a lot of lather is a good thing.
Now don’t you worry, my clean-obsessed friends. Without SLS, you can still find products that lather up, but just enough to wash away the excess oil and bacteria while leaving the rest of it behind. Handcrafted soaps made with natural oils are a great alternative and are popular because of their safe cleansing and moisturizing benefits.
2. Avoid anti-bacterial hand sanitizers
If SLS had an evil twin sister, it would be anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. Anti-bacteria means it kills bacteria, and many hand sanitizers say they kill 99.9% bacteria. That’s a whole lotta bacteria, now that you know that up to 1,000 species live on your skin!
The key bacteria-killing ingredients in most hand sanitizers are alcohol and triclosan. Others are made with all-natural ingredients, but don’t be fooled. There are “natural” alcohols (like ones derived from sugar cane) that also kill 99.9% bacteria, so be sure to look at the ingredients and avoid the natural alcohols too.
3. Avoid hot showers – Just like hot water is more effective at rinsing dirty dishes, it’s also more effective at rinsing the oil and bacteria off of your skin. It’s that simple. Hot is bad. Lukewarm is better. Cold is best. I’m sure nobody is volunteering to take cold showers in the winter, so try showering with lukewarm water for now.
For more in-depth information on how your body needs bacteria and ways to maintain a healthy balance, check out these great articles: