You Probably Don’t Need to Shower

These things are decimating entire ecosystems and they’re sold under innocuous sounding names like Dove, or Oil of Olay. In the past two episodes I mapped my microbiome and then I learned about probiotics. A lot of people take probiotics. They don’t work really well. At least not right now because we don’t know how to make them. That’s absolutely correct. Though the majority of our microbiome is in our gut, there is also a microbial ecosystem on our skin. As we learn more about the relationship between these microbes and our health, some people are questioning whether all the cosmetic products we apply to our skin are a good idea. That include soap. So I talked to someone who learned to go without it. A journalist named Julia Scott. You went a month without doing what? I went a month without using soap, shampoo, deodorant, cleanser, moisturizer, anything that could make me look or smell even remotely good. You started spraying yourself with a bacterium? Yes. I became a human guinea pig in one of the weirdest experiments you could possibly imagine. That experiment was spraying herself with live bacteria, a species called nitrosomonas eutropha. It’s a bacteria normally found in soil, which most of us aren’t exposed to anymore. It lives off of ammonia so it changes our skin chemistry in ways that at, least according to the people who sell it, could help stop us from smelling. How did it go for you? Did you smell terrible? I did not smell like roses. I got some comments. Like, I smell like onions. If I saw any benefits or differences it was I found that my skin took on a natural kind of moisturizer. I wasn’t embarassed. I didn’t have any acne, in spite of not using any products to ward that off. Julia got her bacteria spray from Dr. Larry Weiss. His company, AOBiome, developed it and implies that it could be used as a soap alternative. Their theory is that the bacteria we’re constantly washing off in an effort to be clean might actually be good for us. This oil that people are washing off their skin, that’s there to protect us. We keep washing it off and what happens is our skin is trying to replace it. I saw in a commercial that you need to get little swab things and carry them in your pocket to wash the oil off. Otherwise no one will like you. Let’s see if we can restore it. Let’s rebuild something that is as close as possible to what it is that the healthy state looks like. This is one of those components. Is this hydrochloric acid? No. As we start migrating people away from products that contain chemicals and preservatives that are not native to our physiology. We’re going to need to put things back for them. I cultivated an alien colony of bacteria on my skin. Alien to you? But not alien to horses. That’s true. Apparently this particular kind of bacteria nitrosomonas eutropha lives on horses and other animals that have contact with dirt and nature. These are common soil bacteria. They are found everywhere in nature. They pulled up water from a subantarctic lake about a year and a half ago and it had been isolated for about 1 million to 1.5 million years. And there were ammonia oxidizing bacteria in there. We’ve made our skin less livable than an arctic lake? We started applying chemistry we knew very little about, to this organ system—the microbiome— that we hadn’t even acknowledged existed. What could go wrong with that? It took me a month to cultivate a healthy colony of nitrosomonas on my skin and it only took me three showers to completely extripate the colony. Which was sad because I’d grown to enjoy them. But also because it really says something about the powerful products that we’re using. Since then I’ve stopped using any of the skincare products that I was using prior to the experiment. I only wash my face with water and that’s it. She convinced me to try it. Not the spray. Just not using shampoo or soap on my body. At first I smelled bad. But after a while I didn’t. To make sure I wasn’t crazy, I talked to one of the pioneers of microbiome research, Martin Blaser. What do you do in terms of applying chemistry to your skin microbiome? Meaning soap? It’s fair to say that I almost never shower. You and me both. But I almost always bathe. I wasn’t expecting that one. Curveball. I think there’s a fundamental principle that there are good bugs and there are bad bugs. Good bugs that help us to live our lives. So if you’re removing your good bugs, through soaps or cosmetics or antibiotics etc., you may not be doing yourself any favors. Even though you think that you’re cleaner, you may not be. Except for washing my hands, which is definitely still recommended, I stopped using soap. But that doesn’t mean everyone has to or should. It just means a lot of people could cut back and save some time and money. And possibly even be better off. Yup. Only two products. It checks out. Get out.

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100 thoughts on “You Probably Don’t Need to Shower

  1. In Islam, if you have to perform wudu (abolution) and you dont have water, Muslims are told to use dirt.

  2. I can do without soap. I just need to lose weight so I don't sweat like squeezing a thoroughly soaked sponge, live in a dry environment, and in a place where temperature doesn't go up past 65 degrees. Oh, and lose some form of anxiety lurking within me to avoid exceaaive sweaty hands.

  3. Lmao we have only been using these crazy anti biotic soaps and chemical soaps for a short time this will be interesting in 30 years

  4. How does one shave without cream or soap? Or did they just let their hair grow? If they didn't have a technique for shaving without shaving cream or soap, I'm calling fake on looking clean shaven while using only water.

  5. Science tells us to use soap for a good reason and its not because of the way you smell its to prevent disease. Let those dummy's test out these theories because using soap has worked better than what they are talking about.
    "In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind." – Louis Pasteur

  6. Imagene millions of Brazilians taking 2-3 baths a day … If we use at least less cosmetic products would be much better.

  7. I only use sulfate free soaps and don’t shower daily. We also have well water that is filtered with potassium. I also wear my clothes and nightgowns a few times so I don’t have to do laundry as much. 🤓

  8. Caucasians smell like onions

    Africans, Indo-arabs and Natives smell like rancid suet

    Havent smelled Yellow brand.

    Meateaters are the worse.

  9. Ah, but you see I live in Alabama. And it’s summer. Some of us shower twice a day and it still doesn’t feel like enough.

  10. Modern Westerns have forgotten how to clean with water and smell like people. They were sold the idea they have to buy all kinds of crap for their showers (several kinds for different parts of the body and hair) and artificial smells to put on top of theirs. If they smell and actual person that smells how they're supposed to smell they're surprised – everything has to be clinical.

  11. I believe studies have shown that the largest determinant of how clean your hands will be when washing them in a sink is time spent rubbing them together under flowing water. Maybe these people have just discovered that the same is true of showering/bathing the whole body without soap and other cleansers.

    It would be interesting to see large studies including groups that never showered, only stood in the shower water but with no rubbing, showering without soap but with rubbing, and standard showering with soap. Each group would also have sub groups without the bacterial sprays, with the bacterial sprays, and with placebo sprays.

  12. I stopped using antibacterial soap a couple years ago. If I didn't use it I would get athathetes foot. Now I live off grid, don't wear socks, showering and drinking filtered creek water, no soap, no shampoo, just water, sometimes only twice a week but cool creek water is nice to shower in fresh off the mountain, especially on a cool morning with lots of song birds chirping away awww good times.

  13. I have great respect for that journalist. He basically was around a bunch of people who smell like onions.
    Good g_d.

  14. "I didn't get any acne despite not using any products to ward it off."
    Yeah…because you're 35, and you're not supposed to have acne. But don't worry about that, worry about buying my Snake A Way Rake. Worried about snakes in the grass? Rake your grass with the Snake A Way Rake. See any snakes after? No? That's how you know it's working.

  15. Been doing this for years. No shampoo, but I buzz my hair. I only soap my genitals and use it to wash my hands with. I shower ever 2 to 3 days, but like them long and hot to bring on a bit of a steam room effect. I can gently use my finger nails to scrub off the top lay of skin on my face (probably could do the whole body…) and I believe that has contributed to my baby face. I'm 33. Oh, and I don't use shaving cream. I shave in the shower every time and I my blades last for a few months.

    Wow… Can't believe I shared that with the internet…

  16. Doing it for the pas seven years – soap only for hands and private areas and a shampoo for the hair, the rest is just some warm water every day – don’t have any problems with bad odor or skin infections

  17. I don't really see the big deal about showering. To borrow a joke from David Mitchell, it's not like we're supposed to live for 200 years and showering is making us not live as long. In reality showering (and it's chemicals) are a recent luxury for us and we don't seem to be dying any sooner because of it. There is certainly an environmental argument to be made wrt the chemicals used and things like bath beads, but that will be solved by differing the chemistry we use. As for the microbiome, that too hasn't seemed to diminish our longevity, and I would argue that there are three types of microbes, good, bad, and neutral with most being the latter and a few being the two former.

  18. Have these people live in a humid tropical island.

    As for the smell "going away" after a while, it's coz you just grew accustomed to it. A specific group of people don't often use deodorants here in my country. And when they stink, its stink-to-hell nauseating. They don't seem to notice it but we all just want to jump off the bus. Use a deodorant goddamit!

  19. I just did this same experiment for two weeks, however I would work hard, sweat a lot and then take a dip in the local lake. I did not smell bad. My skin had a natural softness. My purpose was to try to improve my health by improving my skin micro biome.

  20. I used to wash my hair and body with shampoos and shower gels 3 times a week
    I used to have dandruff, dry skin and would sometimes smell.
    I now shower once a week with just water
    I now have no dandruff, I have normal skin and I don't smell

    Who would have thought!

  21. So it's OK to shower, just don't use soap? What if I've been working outdoors all day landscaping, and for lunch I ate three bean, beef, and cheese chili? I'm sweaty, covered in dirt and grass, and have sharted up my drawers. Will just water clean this mess up?

  22. No one has mentioned that drinkers tend to stink the next day. Otherwise: I clean my face with water and a good facecloth; hair of almost all types is fine if rinsed every two days, as long as the scalp is well scrubbed and massaged ( Rastas have shown me their dry shampoo and I've never smelled pongy dreads ). As to the rest of the body: much like hair – water and sloughing off dead skin will generally keep you fresh, not forgetting that the hair around the pits and bits will retain oils which will pong if left untended; do as you see fit.

  23. I shower three times a day. Not because I think I’m dirty but because I really like showers. I don’t use much soap though.

  24. I've kinda been doing this for years 😅 I only ever use soap on my hands, my privates, sometimes my armpits. All you really need for the rest of your body is water… I do use shampoo tho. But I find you can go an extra day or 2 without shampoo if you just wet your hair and blow dry it. Dry shampoo also helps.

  25. Kind of ridiculous. I assume none of the people who forego cleansing wear sunscreen, which is vital for any skincare routine. Bacteria aren't going to deflect UVA rays that penetrate through windows and cause aging/wrinkles. Also why would they encourage people to not use moisturizers, like seriously… that's like showing people how to look old as fast as possible..

    I don't think the answer is to never use any kind of soap or cosmetic, rather, don't use the ridiculously harsh stuff so prevalent on the Western market. The Asian double cleansing method with an oil-based cleanser and then a very gentle foaming cleanser is tried and true. Retinoids like tretinoin are fantastic for your skin, so are AHAs and BHA. Of course, when using these drugs, sunscreen is essential (once again, Western sunscreen is terrible, Japanese sunscreens are easily available online, affordable, and leaps and bounds ahead of Western sunscreen). And when wearing sunscreen, cleansing at night is essential. Not to mention all the amazing ingredients in modern, high quality skincare – niacinimide, ceramides, collagen, anise extract, snail mucin, the list goes on. Why miss out on these things when all you need to do is not buy shitty Western hygiene products? The West has gotten a lot of really nice, gentle shampoos/conditioners (you really don't need to wash your hair more than 2-3 times weekly if you use a sulfate free shampoo and a high quality conditioner) on the market in recent years, so we're good on the hair front, but everywhere else the selection sucks.

    Also I use a homemade coconut oil soap and it cleanses and conditions while not stripping my skin of all moisture. The answer isn't to just be a stinky greaseball, just research the ingredients in the current hygiene products you are using, and replace them with good stuff.

  26. If you have eczema (the dry kind), doctors actually recommend only using water to wash your face and only showering every other day unless you become particularly sweaty. I still do this even though my skin is fine as an adult.

  27. What resides in your body eventually migrates to your clothes. And the microbes in behave differently in your clothes than on your body. Much stinkier. And probably stain much worse.

  28. I have met people who don't shower, they smell worse than most animals thanks to all the things that remain in human clothing.

  29. This is mostly within the realm of speculation. There needs to be a lot more peer-reviewed research before people go around advocating against soap. There is a high risk that bad bacteria could do more harm than good bacteria does good.

  30. To everyone who says "I never shower or use soap and I don't stink."

    From all of us who have to be around you at work/school/whatever: Yes, yes you absolutely fucking do smell bad.

  31. If a man is rich enough, women will screw him no matter how bad he smells. If a woman is pretty enough, men will screw her no matter how bad she smells. Normal everyday looking people who smell bad will not get laid. Ugly people need every advantage that they can get.

  32. Some disgusting people in the comments section…look, you DO stink! Use soap during every single shower…and yes, your hair reeks, use shampoo!

  33. 100% of people who claim you don't need to shower daily smell like shit.
    I just made that up but it's true in my subjective experience

  34. The same is true of mouthwash. I never had bad breathe to begin with but I have that morning breathe. When I stopped using mouthwash I didn't have that problem anymore. Now I just raise with salt water.

  35. Bleach kills AIDS its sooo strong and harmfull we should stop cleaning with it….. long live aids, mostly Kool-Aids!!!

  36. Our skin is the largest organ in the body. Among other functions, it excretes toxins, which should be rinsed away.

    Soap, real soap, can be used occasionally with no ill effects. Certain areas of the body benefit from more frequent use of soap and water, areas which should be obvious. Most people have never used soap. They use detergents, sometimes in the shape of a bar of soap. That said, daily rinsing with clean water, not too hot, and free of chemicals like chlorine (and the dozens or more industrial chemical and drugs showing up in most public water supplies) is a healthful practice.

    It just makes sense to avoid synthetic chemicals and substances of all kinds. Especially in our food, water, skin contact, etc.

    Moisturizing of the skin ideally comes from within. The diets our ancestors thrived on (yes, our ancient ancestors thrived, or we would not be here) 'in the wild', logic would tell us this is what we should eat. Even zoos are learning that animals do best on their ancestral diets. (Duh).

    Plant oils, which are not readily absorbed by human skin, make excellent insect repellent.

  37. 4:25

    I was going to comment this. I shower monthly but i bathe like two times a day and rub cleaning products all over myself a ton so I'm probably cleaner than someone who just showers daily

  38. I've seen science that shows how fluorides in water are directly absorbed into
    our skin/body which takes residence where iodine should be. Because we get
    so much less iodine the fluoride pushes it's way into our body & is inherently
    unsafe for our well being. There are 4 like elements on the Scientific Charts
    which will substitute for each other within our body but Iodine was intended.
    Interesting story here….. lol, hope ya'll smell good.

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