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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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November 19, 2014

How to Support Healthy Skin Bacteria

By Mark Sisson
143 Comments

Feet in mudLast week, I introduced the concept of the skin biome: the vast communities of microbes living on and in our skin. For some, it was unsettling. Gut microbes are out of sight, out of mind. But skin microbes are on us. They’re crawling, reproducing, digesting, and secreting various fluids and lipids all over the surface of our bodies. In people who’ve been conditioned to use soap and water to remove every last trace of bacteria from our hands and skin, the idea that our hands, faces, arms, and torsos are teeming with microbes – and that it’s probably unwise to remove them all – is hard to swallow. We might even recoil at the thought. I mean, viruses and mites living on us? Really?

Yeah. And we need them to be healthy and vibrant because skin bacteria help determine our skin’s immune response, vulnerability to allergies, wound healing, and susceptibility to certain skin diseases, to name just a few things they do for us.

We have a pretty good idea how to cultivate a healthy gut biome. We may not know everything (and we probably never will), but fermented foods, prebiotic fibers, and nutrient-dense fat, protein, and carbohydrate sources are a good start.

How about cultivating a healthy skin biome?

You pick up a lot of your skin bacteria from environmental contact. For example, you’re more likely to share skin bacteria with your spouse, your roommates, your pets, and your friends than with strangers. One recent study into the skin biome changes of roller derby players found that, after matches, opposing teams shared many skin biome similarities that didn’t exist before. They’d swapped bacteria.

Your home’s biome has an impact on your own. Low bacterial diversity in one’s immediate surroundings is linked to skin diseases and subsequent lower skin bacterial diversity. I don’t know if you need to go so far as to sequence the biome of your bedroom (or if that service is even commercially available), but if you’re having skin issues your home might need a deep-cleaning. Consider trying a probiotic household cleaner. There’s no real research – yet – but the concept is sound: instead of sterilizing the house with traditional cleaners that leave it open to recolonization by pathogens, introduce beneficial microbes that prevent recolonization.

Avoid antibacterial soaps and lotions. You’re already doing this, probably. Triclosan, the principle antibiotic found in antibacterial soaps, has received lots of negative press, even in the mainstream. It crosses the placenta and induces antibiotic resistance. But make sure you’re not using it. Check your labels for anything resembling “anti-bacterial.”

Consider probiotic lotions. One lotion containing Enterococcus faecalis SL-5 reduced acne lesions and countered the effect of acne-causing bacteria. You could make your own, too. Seriously: researchers just added E. faecalis SL-5 probiotic powder to a commercial lotion to produce the anti-inflammatory effect. However, I’m not yet sold on the idea that probiotic lotions are necessary (or even helpful) in the absence of skin problems.

Get a dog. Dog owners have less eczema, even if they have a dog allergy (the same is, sadly, not true for cat owners with cat allergy), most likely since dogs tend to roll around in everything they encounter and rub against us any chance they get, thereby increasing the microbial diversity of our homes and mixing their rich skin bacteria with ours. Dogs are filthy, and that’s probably a good thing.

Roll around in the dirt. Okay, not literally. Gardening, playing outdoor sports that involve intimate contact with the soil, and making mud pies are all somewhat more socially acceptable alternatives to taking dirt baths like a hog. Then again, horses, pigs, dogs, and birds may be on to something with their tendency to roll around in the soil. So, I dunno – try it?

Try AOBiome spray. AOBiome is a probiotic body spray that promises to replace soap. Rife with the same ammonia-consuming bacteria abundant in soil and fresh water (which is why you should roll around in the dirt sometimes), it colonizes your body with bacteria that consume sweat and leave you feeling so fresh and so clean. Some months back, a NY Times writer tried it for a few weeks, foregoing soap, shampoo, and deodorant entirely. It went mostly well. Her skin improved, buoyed by the natural oils soap normally washes away. While she didn’t smell bad, she had an odor that she wasn’t used to smelling. We’ve been conditioned to fear any and all body odors, which I think is a mistake.

Wash your hands with soap, but don’t be so liberal with other parts of the body unless they really need it. Handling raw chicken? Yeah, wash up. Flu going around? Wash up. Out hiking? Regular soap isn’t chemically antibacterial, so using it won’t promote antibiotic resistance or wage chemical warfare on the good guys, but it does physically bind and slough off microbes. For myself, I’ve cut way back on soap and shampoo usage. I shower daily, but use soap only about every other time, mostly to wash off chlorine (I’m in the pool almost every day), and shampoo about once a week. Salt (from ocean plunges) and dirt (from playing Ultimate and general cavorting and frolicking) don’t worry me. If I’m sweaty, from a hard workout, water does the trick. And you can ask anyone who’s attended PrimalCon, where I give out hugs quite liberally: I don’t stink (do I?).

Limit or avoid antiperspirants. Using them reduces microbial diversity of the armpit, and they probably just make you smell worse in the long run. Sweating is a natural physiological process; it’s unwise to curtail it by literally clogging the sweat pores with aluminum. Scientists have dubbed armpits the “rain forests” of the skin biome. They’re a powerful source of microbial diversity. I almost wonder if taking armpit swabs from healthy individuals and applying them to parts of your skin afflicted with dryness or eczema could have an alleviating effect. Wouldn’t be surprised and it couldn’t really hurt. And actually, researchers from that armpit study have done that, transplanting armpit bacteria from people who don’t really smell to the armpits of people who do smell. They’ve gotten great results, according to the above article. Anyone want to try?

Though you might think only the topical application of antibiotics would impact the skin biome, oral usage has an effect. Oral antibiotics given to mice with skin wounds reduced the diversity of wound bacteria and dampened the immune response, thus delaying wound healing.

Get comfortable with the idea of “bacteria” on your skin. This is the hardest, most important step to take. The knee jerk reaction to “bacteria” is a negative one. It shouldn’t be, as the last two posts have shown. If you can accept the place bacteria have on your body, maybe you won’t feel the need to scrub down twice a day and rub lotions all over.

As time goes on and research continues, we’ll learn more about healthy practices for a healthy skin biome. For now, though, these are simple, effective strategies that almost anyone can experiment with.

Let’s hear from you guys, now. What are you hygiene habits like these days? How much soap do you use? Are you quick to wash every last speck of dirt from your skin? How’s your skin health?

Thanks for reading, everyone!

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TAGS:  skin/hair

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143 Comments on "How to Support Healthy Skin Bacteria"

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Stevemid
Stevemid
2 years 9 months ago

I prefer to think of them as my minions… denizens of planet Steve, to whom I kindly grant access to various resources in return for small favours (providing they behave themselves of course).

Tom B-D
Tom B-D
2 years 9 months ago

Haha, think again–you are the minion of the bacterial horde! All your base are belong to us!

Stevemid
Stevemid
2 years 9 months ago

Oh really? Maybe a little demonstration of my power will keep them in line…
*reaches for antibacterial soap*

Tom B-D
Tom B-D
2 years 9 months ago

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out….

HelenP
HelenP
2 years 9 months ago

lol x about 100

Groktimus Primal
2 years 9 months ago

Is my robot body ready yet so I can ditch all these hitchhikers?

bigmyc
bigmyc
2 years 9 months ago

Very interesting concept with the ammonia oxidizing body spray but what’s with the ridiculous price tag? I guess the market for this product warrants it but this “boutique” item is outta reach for so many of the Paleo camp. Me thinks that living Primally enough renders such a product completely superfluous.

Tom B-D
Tom B-D
2 years 9 months ago

Cheaper than ordering a box of puppies.

bigmyc
bigmyc
2 years 9 months ago

AOBiome?…Is that you?

Tom B-D
Tom B-D
2 years 9 months ago
no, i’m just an architect who has been following this blog for a few years, and recently went the AOMist route. I like what they’re doing but am not connected to their business except as a customer. I was making a joke–since one of the suggestions was to get a dog…but yeah, I swallowed hard when I saw the price, but decided it was worth the experiment. SInce I was already not using a lot of soap, and doing a lot of gardening and “dirty workouts,” I think I was already pretty far along the healthy skin biome route. Will… Read more »
Benjamin S
Benjamin S
2 years 8 months ago

I can report after one week of using the “mist” my acneiform on my thighs has cleared up for the first time in…well, as long as I can recall. Now, I did stop using soaps also, but I am surprised despite a paleo lifestyle and use of probiotics in the past, nothing seems to have worked until now. I will make a point of getting dirty next spring and keep up with this misting budget permitting.

lewis
lewis
2 years 9 months ago

Interesting you mention chlorine… Couldn’t swimming in chlorine often also potentially damage your skin bacteria?

Roger
Roger
2 years 9 months ago

I believe you are correct that swimming in a public swimming pool in which they use chlorine will damage your skin bacteria. Since I read up on the dangers of swimmingin chlorine water a couple years ago I only swim in lakes. The pools always left my hair and skin feeling very dry.

b2curious
b2curious
2 years 9 months ago

Pools using a salt chlorinators are much easier on the skin and hair. My youngest daughter’s hair had been fried from our traditional chlorine pool’s ph balance being out of whack (too acidic). That summer, while traveling, we swam in a couple of pools with a salt chlorinating system and it actually helped her hair. Was much easier on the skin as well.

Dr. Anthony Gustin
2 years 9 months ago

Whoa I had no idea about these probiotic soaps and lotions. Further investigation is imminent.

Vince G
Vince G
2 years 9 months ago

Talk to me Doc!

Vince G
Vince G
2 years 9 months ago

I mean after you do the investigating, lol.

Becca
2 years 9 months ago

Haha! Probiotic lotions are news to me too!

M. Stivers
M. Stivers
2 years 9 months ago

I haven’t used soap to shower with for 2.5 years since I bought my Norwex body cloths 🙂 Wondered if perhaps they remove too much bacteria, though…

ObligateCarnivore
ObligateCarnivore
2 years 9 months ago

I don’t really use any soap in the shower, but shampoo, yes. I don’t use hand sanitizer and avoid ‘antibacterial’ soaps. Most soap exposure I get is from washing dishes and hand soap in the bathroom. I figure these two are inevitable.

Darshana Maya Greenfield
Darshana Maya Greenfield
2 years 9 months ago

Washing dishes was so hard on my fingernails (esp when I was less healthy and not eating enough good fats!), that I started using dishwashing gloves, years ago. Just make sure not to get any with antibacterial treatments. Unfortunately my old favorite Playtex switched to that. But there are plenty of natural gloves, like those by Casabella, which are fabulous!

Shary
Shary
2 years 9 months ago
Regarding ultra-cleanliness, women are probably worse about it than men. There are few female mechanics, for instance, because (according to my spouse) women don’t like getting grease under their fingernails. Actually, most of us don’t like getting anything under our fingernails. We like clean bodies and clean environments, maybe to our own detriment. I wouldn’t say dogs are filthy, but they aren’t exactly pristine either. Neither are babies. Once they reach the crawling stage, babies probably aren’t any cleaner than the family dog. It’s hard to understand this as being a good thing, but it probably is. Years ago cloth… Read more »
Clare
Clare
2 years 9 months ago

Yes, *some* people still do that. There has been quite a “cloth diaper” movement in recent years, motivated by environmental concerns. And there’s quite an overlap between these crunchy mums and paleo actually.

mims
mims
2 years 9 months ago

yes, I did it for three years and hung them to dry on the line to boot. (after washing of course!)

caroline
caroline
2 years 9 months ago
Yes we used cloth nappies/diapers for our twins – wanted to avoid those chemicals that stay in constant contact with wet, vulnerable baby skin. I once read that there’s a link between those chemicals and respiratory problems. (Shaped cloth diapers were easy and buckets full of smelly water are a thing of the past – many parents now just pile the diapers in a dry bucket and throw them in the washing machine.) Funny/scary thing is, just as you notice everyone’s highly-perfumed clothes, bodies and homes when you stop using mainstream products, wet disposable diapers smell incredibly strongly of chemicals… Read more »
Michelle
2 years 9 months ago
Totally! I cloth diaper, and my house never smells of diapers, unless I’ve used a few disposables. When I go into the house of someone with a babe in disposables, I smell that chemical-ish flowery poop-perfume immediately. Growing up, I really expected that my house would perpetually smell like that when I had a baby! I use a combo of microfiber-based diapers and organic cotton prefolds stuffed in plastic/PUL covers. I’m actually in the process of transitioning to an all-natural-fiber setup, because the ammonia buildup on the microfiber is really annoying and harsher detergents can’t be used in my washer… Read more »
Rick
Rick
2 years 9 months ago

We’ve been bathing with soap for how many decades now? And our life expectancy has never been higher. Imho it’s a higher priority that we fix our gaze on our navel biome. ; )

Tony
Tony
2 years 9 months ago

That is a simple correlation — but we know correlation is not causation — and it would be a huge leap to suggest bathing with soap is a significant factor in longevity. Refuse collection and cleaner water would come to mind as two other possible reasons — and of course there are many such correlations.

Rick
Rick
2 years 9 months ago

Fair enough. But it does appear safe to say that bathing with soap is not reducing our life expectancy by any detectable amount.

But if dirtier skin is good for us, why isn’t dirtier water?

I need an app to track the species and numbers of bacteria on and In me. Not sure my phone’s processor is powerful enough, though. : )

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 9 months ago

All I know is that today’s article was absolutely filthy…and I loved every minute of it!

Mary Lou
Mary Lou
2 years 9 months ago

I recently began washing with goats’ milk soap. It was sold to me as a kinder-to-the-skin pH. I was skeptical at first, but now I love it. My skin is much less dry, and I can even use it on my face. Previously, it was impossible to was my face with soap and water because it dried me out so badly. This soap doesn’t do that. And water beads up on my skin in the shower.

Sarah
Sarah
2 years 9 months ago

Hmmm, I hate washing up. Will put off the shower as long as possible. Hair gets washed once a week with organic shampoo and conditioner. Hands get washed when handling raw meat or if really filthy from garden work/handling the horses. Love my dogs, they are my pre-wash cycle for doing dishes. I’m a grub. A very healthy-never-ever-sick, dirt ball. 😛

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 9 months ago

I think I have a post-menopausal “dry armpit” problem–like Mark, I only wash hair and use soap weekly, yet I still end up with armpits that seem to no longer sweat like they used to. My new deodorant has become coconut oil to help with dry skin, chafing, and skin discoloration.

I’ve also noticed a marked decrease in leg & armpit hair growth, so shaving is down from weekly to monthly. I must’ve hit a new low in estrogen or something.

SB
SB
2 years 9 months ago

How long did it take your body to adjust to the coconut oil? I tried it for a month or two but I would still sweat (and smell :(). Granted I’m not close to menopause so that may be part of it.

Aljolette
Aljolette
2 years 9 months ago

Coconut oil mixed with frankincense…

RetiredTeacherNowRancher
RetiredTeacherNowRancher
2 years 9 months ago

I tried coconut oil alone & it didn’t work. I wash with Out of Africa Shea Butter Bar Soap ( also has coconut oil, honey & milk proteins, etc.) first. I mix Vitacost,(the best) or Nutiva coconut oil, raw Shea butter, & my favorite essential oils ( mimosa, tuberose, & jasmine) & it lasts all day.

Justin
Justin
2 years 9 months ago

Washing off chlorine in my shower is a silly concept. I feel like city water is getting worse and worse. We practically have to filter twice before drinking. I focus mainly on hands, don’t use deo/anti-perspiring, and shower daily, but my work environment gets resin fumes, dust, etc. everywhere. Maybe after I shower I’ll go roll around in the dirt. 🙂

Alexandra
Alexandra
2 years 9 months ago
I only shower occasionally but I do wash with soap the more bacteria dense areas when I do shower; otherwise I do my best not to get soap on my body. It’s been a year since I have used shampoo – either baking soda or lemon juice or just swishing my hair in warm/hot water when I do decide to get my hair wet. I do notice the sebum smell, which is not unpleasant exactly, but I would prefer a nice lavender smell, but I put up with it. I am not at all aware of an unpleasant odor from… Read more »
shtove
shtove
2 years 9 months ago

I think vinegar a couple of times a week should sort out the scalp sebum. Amazing how it gets the follicles to march in line as well.

Ever tried straight sodium bicarbonate instead of baking soda?

It scrubs, neutralizes pH, and deodorizes. You can use it all over as an active deodorant throughout the day. Except the sensitive bits.

I do wonder how it affects bacteria, given the neutralizing effect. Quick google suggests neutral is ideal. Any thoughts?

OnTheBayou
2 years 9 months ago

Baking soda IS sodium bicarbonate. One hundred percent so.

It also does not neutralize pH, it increases low pH towards higher.

Chemistry 101.

shtove
shtove
2 years 9 months ago

I read baking powder for baking soda. Sodium bicarb reacts with acids and bases. 101.

Karen
Karen
2 years 9 months ago

Yes, do try a vinegar rinse for your hair. Lemon juice is great for fighting frizz, but vinegar is a better hair degreaser.

If you have any length at all you can mix lavender eo with jojoba oil or any other neutral smelling carrier oil and use just a bit of that rubbed into your hand to smooth over then lengths of your hair.

Heck, use it as a body oil and you’ll smell like lavendar from top to bottom.

Alexandra
Alexandra
2 years 9 months ago

Thank you, Karen, I like the idea of mixing jojoba and lavender oil together for an all over body ‘frangrance’. I will try that, because I *do* like lavender.

Smileyprimaljulie
Smileyprimaljulie
2 years 9 months ago

I use lavender and other oils diluted in a spray bottle with water and spritz my hair with that after “washing”, as well as during the week. Nice and fresh!

Amanda
Amanda
2 years 8 months ago

Lemon for frizz? I figured I’d read this article before hopping in the shower, and I will definitely try this! I’ve resorted to using conditioner before washing once a week with a handmade edible oil based (ie hippy) shampoo; cider vinegar leaves my hair clean and manageable, but midweek I can’t add enough oil for frizz without getting oily hair. Thanks!

T
T
2 years 8 months ago

I don’t use soap all over. But must use them on the pits and nether regions because that would be a little gross.

Smileyprimaljulie
Smileyprimaljulie
2 years 9 months ago

My cleansing routine consists of refined coconut oil for face cleansing/makeup removal, cocoa butter for moisturizer, olive oil soap for body, and warm water rinsing for hair. That’s it…no shampoo needed! For deodorant, I LOVE Primal Pit Paste…that stuff really works, and you can eat it, if you were so inclined 😉

Bashie
Bashie
2 years 9 months ago

Do you use the olive oil soap for your scalp? Doesn’t your hair get super greasy?

Smileyprimaljulie
Smileyprimaljulie
2 years 9 months ago

Nope! I just “scrub” it with my fingers when I shower. I only need to do this around 3x a week now, although I needed to do it more often in the beginning. Once you stop using things that dry out your hair, it decreases its oil production. It seems to have much more body now, but be more manageable at the same time. I don’t use styling products either.

Alexandra
Alexandra
2 years 9 months ago

My hair has a lot more body now, too. My hair is very long and I do not use hair products either. I can’t get rid of the flaky scalp though, which is really bothering me a lot.

Nancy
Nancy
2 years 9 months ago

I believe we are meat puppets for our bacteria.

patrick
2 years 9 months ago

That’s pretty funny, but I’ve been wondering about this a lot.
What if we evolved “hair” from the seemingly smarter “fur” so that we could capture more bacteria. The bare skin is useful for grabbing vitamin D and the super long hair is for collecting a ton of bacteria. Cuz really, if hair was supposed to keep us warm why would we have the most on the parts of our bodies that are always warm.
parkinglot: what about the proto feathers on massive warm blooded dinosaurs.

Ms white
Ms white
2 years 9 months ago

I use mainly dr bronners soaps and essential oils with other oil carriers for most things – how are these affecting my skin biome?

Tom B-D
Tom B-D
2 years 9 months ago

Check out what AOBiome says about castille soaps (they have a blog, FAQ, and chat function). Since I started using AOBiome mist, I wondered too, and it still destroys the bacteria. Now I only use soap on my hands after using toilet, handling greasy stuff or raw meat in the kitchen, etc.

Ian
Ian
2 years 9 months ago
I’ve not used soap, deodorant or shampoo for two years other than hand soap when cooking. I shower every morning in water only, using a flannel if my hands or face are particularly dirty. I used to get dry skin issues and greasy hair if I didn’t wash my hair with shampoo every day, now my skin is perfect and hair never too greasy or too dry (unless I’ve been swimming the day before). Apparently I don’t smell and save a fortune on the scented chemicals that I used to buy. Your hair and skin definitely balance themselves naturally if… Read more »
Wade
Wade
2 years 9 months ago

I’m can second this. Been soap and shampoo free for a year and a half, my skin and hair have never been better. Water and a washcloth, that’s it. BO shows up far less now too.

The adjustment phase took about two weeks for me. It’s a tough paradigm to break, but the resulting epiphany is awesome.

patrick
2 years 9 months ago

Here Here.
Same over here. It took about 6 weeks for the nasty BO to go away when I gave up deodorant, and a short period of oily skin when I stopped using soap in the shower. For me it started in high school.
I had terrible acne and I tried every soap, smear, and cream… till one day I decided to just use water. The acne vanished “overnight”. Turns out less really is more.
but on the BO front, I’ve learned I just can’t eat green peppers, which isn’t actually a loss.

Nick
Nick
2 years 9 months ago

Love your website thanks for all that you do. I get the no antiperspirants, but what about regular old deodorant?

Darshana Maya Greenfield
2 years 9 months ago

I did not use deodorants for years, and had no smell, until my life got really stressful caring for my elderly parents… Yikes, I started to stink right after my shower (where I only wash face, ears, pits, butt and crotch with olive oil soap – just don’t feel clean otherwise.) I found a milk of magnesia deodorant that works great. Apparently the stink-producting bacteria can’t live in magnesium. You could probably make your own coconut oil mixed with powdered magnesium, but I’d rather buy an easy roll-on!

Barbara
Barbara
2 years 9 months ago
Instead of regular deodorant, I use a crystal deodorant stone (comes in a stick) which is just mineral salts that stop the smell. Probably kills off some bacteria but it works a treat. Works on feet too and there’s a liquid roll on version. Manufactured by Deodorant Stones USA, so you should be able to get it. I’ve also gone 3 years without washing my hair, just brush it every day and rinse it under the shower – hair is short by the way. Why use a chemical to take out the good oils, etc, then use conditioner (more chemicals)… Read more »
Michele
2 years 9 months ago

Love the idea of a probiotic household cleaner. Sounds like my kind of cleaner as I hate the antibacterial stuff 🙂

Erica
2 years 9 months ago

As a kid I somehow got into the habit of never really bathing with soap or body wash. I’d just wash my hair, shave, and call it good. I still only use body wash maybe once a week, and never use lotion, and I’m always complimented on how soft my skin is! Don’t mess with nature, folks.

Leroy-bee
Leroy-bee
2 years 9 months ago

my doctor gave me antibiotics and an anti-microbial wash for some acne and boils I have. I’m taking probiotics for my gut but I never thought about my skin! Shoot!

Daaave
Daaave
2 years 9 months ago

On the other hand, demodex mites have been linked to rosacea. I’ve seen improvement in just a few days washing my face with manuka honey, which has natural antibiotic properties.

Rodney
Rodney
2 years 9 months ago

I’d love more positive experiences in giving up shampoo. I tried awhile back, but have very oily hair requiring daily shampooing. I used baking soda and weekly vinegar rinse, which was ok, but a bit cumbersome. I still couldn’t skip a day due to the persistent oil.

Who out there managed to get rid of the oily hair problem?? Help!!

Lou
Lou
2 years 9 months ago
After some 40 years of daily “lather-rinse-repeat” shampooing and conditioning, I decided to quit last winter. I went through that greasy period, but managed to minimize the “ick” factor by simply using a very small amount of shampoo and scrubbing my scalp hard. Rather than the full lather-rinse-repeat with a full load of shampoo, I used a small enough amount that it wouldn’t lather, and only once. After a few days, I started every other, then once a week. Kind of like weaning my head off it. I still notice a little bit of greasiness now and again (maybe once… Read more »
Shary
Shary
2 years 9 months ago
Rodney, as Lou suggested, wean your scalp off the daily washing rather than trying to go to once a week all at once. I did this, and now I wash my hair on the average of 2 or 3 times a week. I can and sometimes do go longer but my baby-fine hair gets too limp and droopy. More frequent washing with a very mild shampoo gives it nice volume and doesn’t seem to dry it out. Another hint (from a hairdresser): skip the conditioner. You likely don’t bleach, perm or color your hair, in which case you don’t need… Read more »
Naomi
Naomi
2 years 9 months ago
It takes time, but it does work. Here are a few resources and my experience. Check out the posts at almostexactly. Check out Dirty ‘Poo at Primal Life Organics, which Mark recommended some time ago, resulting in my serious addiction to all things PLO. I used to wash my fine and oily hair daily. For decades. My hair transition to “no ‘poo” took over a month before my oil production calmed down. I now use 2 T of PLO’s Dirty ‘Poo (a powder, with various clays and other stuff), mixed with 2 T baking soda and 8 oz. of filtered… Read more »
Linda
Linda
2 years 8 months ago
Rodney, I have also gone shampoo less. Re: your continued oily hair, try using the baking soda (not to strong a mix about 1 Tbsp per 6-8 oz water). I use half for a first wash, then rinse quickly, then wash with the second half. I do not use a vinegar rinse (it may make the hair feel thin and flat-in my experience). I have never been happier with my hair using this routine. My hair is fluffy, manageable, etc. Strength of the baking soda mix can make a difference however. If made too strong it will leave a heavy… Read more »
Jonas Emery
Jonas Emery
2 years 9 months ago

Not to be nit-picky… Ok, I guess this is nit-picky. I got the impression from the abstract that the “probiotic” lotion used in the study on acne wasn’t actually probiotic. It was made using a cell free supernatant (no actual bacteria were added to the lotion). But the supernatant from the beneficial bacterial culture contained substances that combated the other undesirable acne causing bacteria. A lotion with that probiotic strain should in theory work too, it just wasn’t exactly how the study was done. But very interesting idea and interesting read! Thanks Mark!

Chapman
Chapman
2 years 9 months ago

Two summers ago, we spent a week in Noel Kempff Mercado (jungle between Bolivia and Brazil) with no water available for bathing. Afterward, my skin was radiant, my hair shiny, and I didn’t smell – it was a try revelation

Alex
Alex
2 years 9 months ago
Interesting article! I began making some changes to my hygiene habits earlier in the year when I realized what I was doing and using simply didn’t work. For washing my skin and hair I switched to Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap. Nothing in the ingredients was alarming to me, and I loved the smell of it (almost like a campfire). That’s with my limited knowledge of the subject of bacteria and chemicals at the time, if anyone has any more educated comments on the product I’d certainly welcome the input. I do wash my hair every day, and it looks far… Read more »
Paleo Bon Rurgundy
2 years 9 months ago

Shampoo-less for 3 yrs, minimal deodorant, cologne or essential oils used only the outside of my clothes, local pastured lard based soap for the man parts, no sun screen, and almond oil rubbed into the skin prior to the shortest cold shower I can tolerate.

kiwi
kiwi
2 years 9 months ago
As for DIY deodorant: I’ve been using my self-made deodorant for about 2 years now and don’t smell at all. 🙂 Here’s which ingredients I use for the recipe: – coconut oil (~ 4 tbsp, melt in a beaker / bowl) – baking soda (~ 3-4 tbsp, first I turn it into fine dust in an electric coffee grinder since the “undusted particles” were too rough on my pits :/ then I add it too the coconut oil until it’s kind of saturated) – mixture of essential oils (I like the combination of lemon and mint -> ~ 10 drops… Read more »
Lisa
Lisa
2 years 9 months ago
I shower 5 times a week (probably skip a day here and there on the weekend) and wash my hair once a week (I have thick, curly hair that would dry out if I washed it more than that). I only use deodorant (Tom’s) if I know I will be sweating, so in the winter I don’t wear any. My skin is great, no issues at all. Dryer than it should be probably but I need to drink more water. I also have a cat, he’s indoor only but does romp around near spiderwebs and rubs himself on the carpet… Read more »
Peter
Peter
2 years 9 months ago

For me, living primal includes hunting for my food. Yet bowhunters often use extreme measures to control body odor due to deer’s keen sense of smell. Wouldn’t your suggestions make it more challenging to be a hunter?

His Dudeness
His Dudeness
2 years 9 months ago
I suppose you’d have to pay a lot more attention to the wind and where you walk. Alternatively, there are specialized laundry detergents and clothing for bowhunting, which you’re probably aware of, that do a pretty good job of masking scents. Maybe for the days you’re out in the field, you can prep the way you always do for hunting, and on other days, don’t – 80/20 and all that. Besides, what could be more primal than using a bow and arrow to put meat on the table, assuming spears and bare hands/teeth still aren’t allowed? Doe urine probably trumps… Read more »
Peter
Peter
2 years 8 months ago

@His Dudeness, I don’t think spears and bare hands/teeth are legal where I live, although I’m not sure the law mentions it specifically.

feraljenn
feraljenn
2 years 9 months ago

I wonder if most hunters have to use those measures to hide scents other than body odor. Since going primal, I’ve noticed I can smell the various lotions and perfumes other people use even from a distance when I’m outdoors, and my sense of smell isn’t anything special. It’s rare to get a whiff of someone who smells natural any more. I’d love to know if other primal hunters even have to bother with covering their personal scent.

Peter
Peter
2 years 9 months ago

I can smell a deer’s funk if it’s upwind of me within about 10-20 yards or so, and it never showers or uses soap… I don’t think our BO (“natural fragrance”) can become somehow indiscernable by deer, if we decide to go primal soap-free for weeks or months.

Suze
Suze
2 years 8 months ago

My dog likes to roll in poo, probably to cover her scent. It seems that might work. I don’t particularly care for it.

Peter
Peter
2 years 8 months ago

What a bunch of bolus!

Eddie
Eddie
2 years 9 months ago

I have troubles with the skin on my hands getting dried out, red, flaky, and itchy. I’ve noticed that when I go camping, after a few days the skin irritation is gone! Not quite sure what the cause/effect relationship is: reduced washing and plenty of good, clean dirt? Stream water vs. chlorine-laden tap water? Soap sucking the oils out of the skin?

While in civilization I try to reduce hand washing as much as possible, but it’s not easy. As a mechanic, I don’t want engine grime getting from my hands to my mouth!

PJ
PJ
2 years 9 months ago

Maybe it’s the chemicals (engine grime) you come in contact with as a mechanic? Just a thought. Although, good, healthy, outdoor living probably has something to do with it to 🙂

Eddie
Eddie
2 years 9 months ago

That is likely true. But even if I’m not doing mechanic work for a while, the irritation never entirely goes away–until I go camping.

Brynn
Brynn
2 years 9 months ago

C’mon people! Just think of all the good quality primal food we can buy with the money we save on soap, shampoos and cleaners!

maidel
2 years 9 months ago

To switch for moment from bacteria to fungi……if you’re a swimmer in public pools or you’ve ever been unlucky enough to pick up athlete’s foot, or any kind of foot fungus, from a gym, pool or locker room, try the Forces of Nature website: http://www.forcesofnaturemedicine.com/us/gclid=CMq4paOsh8ICFehDMgoddGMAvw
They have all-natural cures that, unlike OTC remedies, actually result in a permanent cure. One of the several plant ingredients they use is Thuja occidentalis (an evergreen conifer), which makes sense because trees have to fight off fungi too.

healthywings
healthywings
2 years 9 months ago
regarding skin fungal infections – clay works amazing too – and actually – it works for facial breakouts and other skin issues too. Basic Aztec Clay is powerful and gentle – but there are other clays too – and for stubborn things I have noticed that french red clay was helpful. But I also think the “effect” of something will always depend on what you have going on (your biome microbes and all that) – and for internal fungal infections and lots of other things – any bentonite clay is powerful. But it has to be a cleaned clay before… Read more »
Doug
Doug
2 years 9 months ago

I ditched my deodorant and started using X Virgin coconut oil. Works a dream! You’re left with a nice natural non offensive body smell.

PJ
PJ
2 years 9 months ago

Do your clothes get oil stained?

Doug
Doug
2 years 9 months ago

I haven’t tried it on a crisp white shirt but your under arm absorbs it fairly quickly. What surpsed me was that it really worked. As an experiment I went 3 days in a row & never washed under my arms, just applied EVCO once a day and “voila” no el stinko.

Heather
Heather
2 years 9 months ago

Does anyone know how to obtain the E. faecalis SL-5 probiotic powder? My teenage daughter has acne and I would love to find a healthy remedy for her. I did a google search for it and do not see how to purchase it to try. Thanks.

shannon
shannon
2 years 9 months ago

I quit using soap on my body some months ago. My scalp used to be really itchy and now it’s not. After I rinse my hair with water, I just pour a dilute solution of vinegar over it, to cut the calcium in our hard water.

I use a little Dr Bronner’s soap sometimes when I shave my legs, but not much.

I don’t wash my bottom much any more either: just rinse it with water. It too is less itchy.

Other than eliminating itchiness and dryness, I haven’t noticed much difference. My hair looks shinier I think.

Emily
2 years 9 months ago

I went no ‘poo and minimal soap for several months. I loved what it did to my skin and hair, but eventually I went back to the conventional stuff because honestly, I missed the nice girly smells that the chemical-bombed body wash and shampoo offer. If that’s what’s going to reduce my life quality and kill me in the end, at least I go out smelling like artificial kiwi lavender pomegranate. But at least I know I can totally go without soap/shampoo for a while if the situation calls for it.

shannon
shannon
2 years 9 months ago

I also use some jojoba oil on my face when it feels dry.

Diana
Diana
2 years 9 months ago
I stopped using antibacterial soaps a few months ago. Since reading last weeks post I’ve decided to only soap myself twice a week except for the parts that can smell. I have a water shower every day and soap under my arms, my private parts and my feet every day and the rest just twice a week. I moved to only shampooing my hair twice a week a few months ago as my hair was getting too dry and my hair really shines. I do use an antiperspirant some days and just a deodorant other days. These articles have really… Read more »
Amy
Amy
2 years 9 months ago

Very cool concept! If I were to make my own probiotic lotion for acne, where would I go to get the E. faecalis SL-5 powder? Definitely down to try anything more natural than antibiotics at this point.

Joshua
Joshua
2 years 9 months ago

Same here! Have tried to locate lab grade pure probiotic powders for this but no dice on Google.

Any sources, Mark? 🙂

JDub
JDub
2 years 9 months ago
Yes, locating information about this strain is difficult. “A lactic acid bacterial strain was isolated from human fecal specimen and identified as Enterococcus faecalis SL-5.” I don’t want to do my own isolating! I found this article interesting (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3038963/). It suggests that a topical application of yogurt containing the lactic acid bacteria Streptococcus thermophilus and spit which contains Streptococcus salivarius to help with acne, if that’s your issue. But how to find or create Enterococcus faecalis SL-5, at least for me and my quick search, just comes to a dead end. It seems logical that soil based organisms would better… Read more »
Andreas
Andreas
2 years 8 months ago

You’re in luck 😉

Take a look at Yemoos list of bacteria and yeast strains typically found in milk kefir: http://www.yemoos.com/milkstrains.html

Rose
Rose
2 years 9 months ago
I’ve ‘ washed myself on the towel’ pretty well forever. A bar of unscented soap lasts me a long time in the shower. Jump in the saltwater pool every day, mostly do a quick rinse under a rainwater outdoor hose afterwards. Or not, if I’ve recently put a Mg salt in the pool. Minimal shampoo and love the ACV+ rosemary and lavender EO rinse. Have also used aloe straight from the garden for conditioner, my hair is a bit wild and dry without. Don’t use underarm products routinely; have a super Al free one if it seems important. I do… Read more »
Jason Drumwright
2 years 9 months ago

I stopped using shampoo and soap a couple of years ago. My hair and skin have never looked better (two week transition period with my hair that was very oily)! I stopped using deodorant too. At first I used the crystal deodorant which was good but I’d have to reapply a couple of times if I sweat a lot. Now I use Primal Pit Paste and love it. I actually get compliments from women about my “B.O.” It’s very slight, and I don’t necessarily think it smells good but lots of people do I guess. Bonus!

Livi
2 years 9 months ago

I just started using a natural deodorant this summer, and I am so glad I switched. Antiperspirants are scary!

Seymour Sunshine
Seymour Sunshine
2 years 9 months ago
I absolutely agree. Believe it or not, I haven’t used soap or shampoo other than for handwashing since 1987. At that time I was working on an aid project in Sudan and I’d run out of soap. I really wasn’t happy about showering with just water, but my skin felt so much better after just the first time. I continued for a week without any soap .. and that was that. What about shaving? Simple! I shave in the shower. Oh, and it’s good for the planet. Because I don’t have to rinse off loads of soap, a good shower… Read more »
Janine Lusher
2 years 9 months ago
Hi Mark, I just read one of your comments about that you shower after swimming to wash off chlorine, if you swim in a public pool and if they are the same as Australian public pools I can’t blame you, but if you have your own pool why are you using chlorine, I have an Enviroswim system on my pool, its a fresh water pool system, all I have to do is maintain the pH. My grandkids just love swimming in it, 2 of them have eczema and have no problem and I can use the water on the garden.… Read more »
Dirk
Dirk
2 years 9 months ago
There is a liquid soap I have been using for a few years now called “Miracle II” with good results. I use it to wash my hair and body and over the years my skin has become softer and healthier looking. I even use it in the concentrated form to shave with so when I travel I only bring one product along. A gallon goes a long way. It has a strange story behind it: some very religious man says God showed him the recipe on the wall of his bedroom one night and he wrote it down, began making… Read more »
Heather
2 years 9 months ago
I moved from using soap to wash my face to using olive oil at the suggestion of my sister-in-law. Now I just use warm water, then moisturize my face with a mixture I made of olive oil, macadamia nut oil, a little tea tree essential oil and rosemary essential oil (both high grade.) To wash my hair, I just use warm water, scrub my scalp hard with my fingers, then rub the same tea tree and rosemary essential oils into my palms and run my fingers through my hair afterwards. If my hair needs extra cleansing, I use baking soda… Read more »
Brigitte
Brigitte
2 years 9 months ago

The most effective alternative to commercial deodorants I have found is magnesium oil. A squirt or two in the armpits – no smell at all. And I am keeping my magnesium levels topped up at the same time 🙂 It also works a treat on mosquito bites, really calming down the mad itchy feeling.

Jack Lea Mason
Jack Lea Mason
2 years 9 months ago

The best soap is likely the first soap Grok made by accident. It consists of mixing rendered animal fat with hardwood ashes. I made some for a boy scout project and it worked well enough to get a weeks worth of camp smoke and swamp muck off my dirt caked body. I clean my pans with a mix of coconut oil and baking soda. I guess that could clean skin as well as it cleans cookware?

Paul
Paul
2 years 9 months ago

Does using EV coconut oil effect the skins biome? I eat 3 or 4 table spoons daily, put it on my face each morning as an after shave moisturizer and use it on my feet crotch and arm pits to stay fresh.

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