No Soap, No Bathing … No Bueno

I don’t smell!

That was part of the headline I saw from The Guardian for a story that introduced me to people who chose to no longer shower or bathe. You read that correctly; these people have decided to live a life without soap and water and claim that there are no negative consequences to their actions or lack of action.

In college, I was a little sister to Sigma Phi Epsilon otherwise known as Sig Ep, and when the fraternity would have a big party at their house some of the brothers would warn that Thom “had on his cologne.” It was a reminder to us that the naturalist never wore deodorant and now that the room was getting hot and sweaty, Thom’s “cologne” would be apparent. It’s been nearly 30 years since I attended those parties and still remember those experiences.

At least Thom bathed. It was enough that he never purchased deodorant, and even though he was consistent in that practice he still had body odor when he got sweaty. According to the Guardian article, some people haven’t bathed in 20 years and claim that their body has adjusted and no ill smell is permeating the world around them. I imagine Pig-Pen from Peanuts walking down the street, unaware of the coughs and nose-holding his dust cloud inspires.

So what do they do when they get dirty? Just rub things off with their hands. That’s right, one woman who hasn’t bathed for 9 years told the newspaper that she just scrubs her skin with her hands if there’s any dirt or grime.

The idea is to heal the body’s skin microbiome. You’ve likely heard of the gut microbiome, which is why there are so many probiotic products on the market. The participants in the article say the skin’s microbiome has been disturbed by our
obsession with clean hygiene, and doing away with such products will help replenish the body’s skin to its apparent-original state.

It’s worth noting that there has not been any scientific energy into this idea and that studies don’t yet back up these practices to improve skin microbiomes.

I’m fascinated by this idea of going backwards. Paleo diet, replenish our biomes, yet nothing else in our lives is as it used to be. We sit in air-conditioned buildings, drive where we need to go, and go to the grocery store for our bounty instead of killing prey and picking fruit. It’s as if we’re nitpicking what we like about the past without understanding our evolution from it. My mother didn’t have television as a child and had no problem with us watching it as much as we liked.

“You try living without it,” she would argue to critics.

I’m sure there is far more that goes into our bodies being completely balanced, without the offensive smells that come forth from it. Until that is completely understood I respect other’s routines but am happy to leave my soap and shampoo in the shower. To my future girlfriends, you’re welcome.