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Sunday, October 11, 2020

Something to think about.....


James Hamblin kicks off “Clean: The New Science of Skin” with a confession: He virtually stopped showering years ago. Hamblin, a physician and staff writer for The Atlantic, still sprinkles water on his head from time to time, but shuns shampoos, conditioners, and the cavalcade of other products that march across American shower shelves.

In polite company, Hamblin’s confession tends to land like the Hindenburg, which reveals just how obsessed we’ve become with surface notions of cleanliness — and how reluctant we are to disavow them. But Hamblin thinks the sensible-sounding idea that we should scrub up regularly is both simplistic and wrongheaded. When you take a soap-slathered loofah to your greasy pelt, he says, you’re actually destroying an interdependent microbial universe, or microbiome, on the surface of your skin........

But what soap hoarders and hawkers overlook is that wiping out our symbiotic microbes may make us more vulnerable to other, unexpected maladies. First-line eczema treatments, for instance, include topical antibiotics, cleansers, and drugs that dampen immune response, but some researchers say these approaches can make the condition worse in the long run. “Perturbing the skin barrier by washing or scratching can change the microbial population,” Hamblin notes. “That can rev up the immune system, which tells the skin cells to proliferate rapidly and fill with inflammatory proteins.”

By scrubbing up regularly, the author argues, we stymie one of evolution’s best strategies to shield us from disease and keep out invaders. This observation lines up with an older one that kids raised in highly sanitized environments are more prone to allergies than farm kids like the Amish. Wipe the body’s microbial slate clean too aggressively, the theory goes, and the un-seasoned immune system roars back with a vengeance.

I will admit to embracing this regime, perhaps first learned in my youth from living in a cottage with no running water were the weekly bath was a major operation involving carrying buckets of water from the water supply to the house and heating it on the stove top before filling the metal tub brought in from the shed and placed on the kitchen floor. In my 70 plus years I have never been particularly fanatic about regular baths or showers and have rarely had any sickness beyond a few sniffles once in a while and cuts and scrapes heal quickly with little attention, so perhaps there is something to be said for this once common practice which continues to this day in some small rural communities!

The ever increasing prevalence of children with severe allergies may well be a result of society's insistence upon it being necessary to shower every morning, maintain a spotless house, keep kids out of the dirt and generally avoid being 'contaminated' by anything by some folks. Something to think about in the current pandemic situation.

In no way is the forgoing intended to encourage or condone those that do not take precautions against spreading the most recent and dangerous virus that is killing thousands of individuals world wide. 


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The Disaffected Lib said...

This does sound plausible but changing something so ingrained in society is going to be tough. I have a few doctors and not one of them has spoken of this.

My only contribution to this conversation goes back to the late 60s when I lived and worked in London. My usual conveyance was a BSA Lightning. When it snowed I walked a couple of blocks and took the train to work. Boarding the train it was usually full of the gentry commuting in from their country homes. I was almost 6'3", a good deal taller than most Englishmen. When I boarded the standing room only cars I usually looked over a sea of heads.

A lot of these fellows worked in "the City." They wore the uniform - black shoes, grey or grey pinstripe trousers, waistcoat (a lighter grey), an immaculately laundered and starched white shirt and collar, a tie, a black or dark navy jacket and some of them the ubiquitous bowler. Perfect examples of the English gentleman. It would have been perfect, anyway, except for their personal hygiene. Many didn't wash. They smelled. Their hair, neatly trimmed, was greasy. Their teeth - well, English oral hygiene wasn't what it is today. I think the country ran on chocolate and other sweets. Standing, packed among them, I sometimes imagined I could see them giving off fumes that rose to the roof of the car.

Me, I had to bathe every day. I was a schoolkeeper in Bermondsey which meant I had to tend the coal boilers twice a day. By the time I got home I usually had a pretty good dusting of coal.

Rural said...

Having lived all my life in more rural environs I have never had the 'joy' of spending time packed closely together on public transport or elsewhere with my fellow Brits or my adopted Caucks for that matter, but do see your point Mound!

Anonymous said...

Well, I was brought up in Blighty in the 1950s and the bath was once a week -- with a doctor for a father. We got showers after rugby practice and games though at school, because cakes of mud are a bit hard to handle in class afterwards and I hated dried dirt on my hands, as it tended to crack at inconvenient junctures.

Our family came to Canada in the late 1950s and more showers and men's underarm deodorant were a new thing for us. Gillette Right Guard, woohoo. Going back to Europe in 1969 for studies, one noted that France in the early '70s was a smelly experience due to a combo of what Americans and Canadians thought of as poor personal hygiene and garlic, with women quite unconcerned about shaving their armpits, and publuc toilets a nightmare to behold. The UK was only a little better, the general pong of uncleaned-up dogsh*t everywhere on sidewalks tended to mask things, as did vinegar-soused discarded fish and chip wrappers, barf and pee in alleyways and the overarching stench of unburnt hydrocarbons from the vehicle engines of the day, plus the sulphurous smell of poor quality coal burnt haphazardly in primitive grates in homes during winter which saturated peoples' clothes and fabrics of home furnishings. 'Twas an aromatic experience but hey, you got used to it. The lead in gasoline and paint and London's water pipes should have led to generations of twittering imbeciles but somehow didn't. We left that for today's sterilized young to develop all on their lonesome!

So I understand Dr Hamblin's view. It's merely the adult version of what's been advised for the last half-decade concerning letting kids play outside and ingesting all manner of "germs" and thereby developing antibodies instead of getting peanut allergies from sterilized living. And of course, in the early 1970s, all young adults then alive had suffered the usual measles, mumps and chicken pox growing up. We were a hardy lot, cough, cough. Probably not a bad idea that we needn't overclean everything for little Mary and Johnny these days, either. You just have to get used to more body odour and the use of complimentary perfumes to mask the uh, scent. Good luck getting people to change! We want to face the environmental apocalypse squeaky clean.


Rural said...

To this day I find a little 'natural' body scent less objectionable than a strongly perfumed 'clean' person ...it all depends upon what we are used to I guess!

Owen Gray said...

As someone who suffers from psoriasis, I find a daily shower helpful. Otherwise, things get scaly.

Rural said...

I count myself very fortunate to not have any such problems Owen, I do worry however about my mental acuity as my old creaking arthritic bones stagger me into my dotage, cant wash that away so far as I know.....