Bathing and Your Skin’s Microbiome
Recently, a debate among Hollywood celebrities emerged on whether people should bathe as little as possible. While some stars opt to bathe several times a day, others only bathe on certain days (https://people.com/health/celebrity-bathing-habits-shower-debate/). Jake Gyllenhaal believes that not bathing is helpful for skin maintenance because we naturally clean ourselves. Stars like Dax Shepard likewise echoes this sentiment, saying people should only wash with water, as bathing with a bar of soap every day eliminates the natural oils in our skin. Given these arguments, what does a skin-healthy shower look like?
How Bathing Affects the Skin’s Microbiome
Our skin contains a microbiome, or a community of tiny microorganisms. Trillions of bugs make up this microbiome, with 1000 different bacterial species and up to 80 different fungi species; it’s also not uncommon to have a healthy population of mites and viruses within the microbiome at the same time.
You may be wondering why humans don’t get sick with all these bugs living in our skin. Well, the body recognizes and tolerates those which live in our skin microbiome — although the same bacteria would make us sick if exposed elsewhere. Scientists recently identified two enzymes that protect our overall health from potential microbial intruders (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210521171112.htm) called histone deacetylases (HDACs), which inhibit the body’s inflammatory response and tell our cells to ignore all that bacteria — because they're actually helpful. Their role is to protect the skin barrier and ensure its properly functioning.
As we previously discussed, there are practically no exclusively good or bad bacteria. A flourishing, balanced coexistence is necessary to defend us from pathogens, so the correct amount of bacteria should be in the right area of our bodies at all times. Ironically, an imbalanced or disrupted microbiome can lead to skin diseases and conditions like psoriasis, eczema, acne, and dermatitis.
Maintaining a Healthy Microbiome
In many cultures across the globe, bathing regularly is an important part of cleanliness and hygiene. Among Asian countries, in particular, taking baths with soaps and shampoos is closely associated with good health (https://daydreaminginparadise.com/why-does-asia-love-keeping-clean/).
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