Are We Too Squeaky Clean for Our Own Good?

Maybe showering regularly isn't the best health practice

Jim Farina


Photo by Hannah Xu on Unsplash

Emerging science on hygiene with input from dermatologists, microbiologists, allergists, immunologists, and Amish people.

I've always been compulsive about hand-washing, even pre-Covid. It's not so much about all the stuff I'm touching throughout the day but rather the idea of all the other people touching the same stuff. I don't know where people's hands have been. I often witness guys leaving the train station's public restroom without washing their hands.

It only takes one person with a cold or infection to touch the same door handle, gas pump, keypad, handrail, or shopping cart. I wouldn't say I'm a full-blown germaphobe, but I'm easily repulsed and cautious about washing my hands.

Showering is another story. I don't need regular showering and hair washing beyond my face, armpit, and private areas. And now, there's increasing authoritative evidence to support this reasoning.

We hear so much about how diverse microbiome flora is essential for our gut health, so it makes sense it's equally crucial for the outside of our bodies.

In the book Clean, doctor and journalist James Hamblin examine the science and culture of how we care for our skin. If you're compulsive with showering or bathing daily, you'll reevaluate some of your current practices after reading these findings.

Modern concepts of "cleanliness" led us to over-cleansing

The book's author James Hamblin was a well-paid doctor. He left that job and became a journalist, writing multiple articles for The Atlantic. One of these articles: I Quit Showering and Life Continued, describes Hamblin's journey with showering less while ditching personal care products. Part of this was to save extra time and money.

After some months, Hamblin realized his body was getting accustomed to these changes — in a positive way. His skin was less oily, which seems counterintuitive. He also had fewer breakouts of eczema. His girlfriend had something to say about his aroma too. She commented that James now smelled more "like a person."

But after a while, your…