You get in the shower, break out the sponge and body wash and go to town scrubbing your body from head to toe. And why wouldn’t you? After all, a clean body is a healthy body, right?
Well, maybe not…
According to a microbiologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Toronto (and backed up by scientific research) you could be showering too much, which could lead to eczema and even skin cancer.
Here’s what you need to know about getting clean plus the only three areas you should soap in the shower…
The three areas that make up ‘your bits’
Professor Sandy Skotnicki has a term for the areas that actually are OK to use body wash on. She likes to call them “the bits.”
This term encompasses your underarms, groin and feet. And that’s it!
Sound strange? Well, probably since we’re all used to scrubbing everything — forearms, legs, stomach, the whole nine yards. And it sounds even crazier considering we’re also in the midst of a global pandemic where we’re being told to wash, wash longer, wash more and then wash again.
Yet, the truth is that that recommendation is just for our hands, which are most likely to pick up the coronavirus that leads to COVID-19 when we’re out and about, touching grocery carts, door handles and credit card machines.
Professor Skotnicki says that once you’re in the shower (or bath) soaping your “bits” is all it takes to be clean. She says that even showering too often, especially when you use soap or hot water, can strip your skin’s natural barrier, removing the oils that lock in moisture.
And once your skin is dry, it can become easily irritated. That’s why she says over-washing can trigger an eczema flare-up.
Your skin’s microbiome and cancer protection
And it’s not just the risk of eczema and the extremely dry, flaky, irritated skin that comes with it that you could be risking by overusing soap and spending too much time letting hot water pore down your body in the shower.
More and more, scientists are learning that our skin is host to millions of tiny, beneficial microbes that keep it in balance and protect your health. Yet, overusing soap can carry the risk of tipping that balance to the dark side — microbes that harm rather than help your skin health.
One study using mice found that when their skin was coated with healthy bacteria from human skin and then exposed to the sun, the mice got fewer skin cancers than once coated in a different microbe. The scientists believe that this skin cancer protection came from the fact that the healthy bacteria produces a compound called 6‑N‑hydroxyaminopurine, one that seems to block the replication of tumor cells.
Just clean enough
So, the next time you get in the shower, remember “the bits” are the way to go when it comes to soap. Your underarms, groin area and feet are all you need to worry about in order to be clean enough but not so clean that you’re destroying your skin’s microbiome and setting yourself up for eczema and skin cancer.
Of course, there’s always an exception for every rule. If you cover your entire body with sunscreen for a day at the beach or get covered in dirt and sweat after marathon yard work, you may need a total body washup. But for the most part, taking care of the bits will do just fine.
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- You’re Showering Too Much — The Atlantic