What’s Living on Your Skin?

SkinThe average human body has about 1.2 square meters of skin. Scattered across and nestled in its myriad crevasses and canyons would lie trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and mites. Before you shudder and reach for the bleach and a stiff scouring brush, remember the importance of cultivating and supporting the billions of bacteria living in your gut. Recall the vital roles they play (that we know about) in our health and realize that the skin microbiome isn’t any different. Although research is young, we are learning that the critters living on our skin, who number in the billions per centimeter of skin, are supposed to be there. And even though we don’t know exactly all they’re doing, we know this:

The skin microbiome isn’t an artifact of civilization or agriculture. We’ve always hosted colonies of microbes on our bodies and we’ve evolved in the context of a skin microbiome. Since our current environment is more sterile than any preceding it, our ancestral skin microbiome was almost certainly more diverse. We must exercise caution, then, when trying to extirpate our skin of “germs.”

The composition of our skin microbiome varies between areas of the body. Your left hand, for example, has a markedly different microbial community than your right hand.

Like the gut bacteria, our skin bacteria perform important roles. It’s possible, maybe even probable, that the fungi, viruses, and mites living on our skin are also necessary, but we simply don’t know enough about those critters to say for sure so today we’ll focus mainly on how the bacteria living on our skin impact us:

They regulate the skin-level immune response to allergens. For instance, in adolescents, the presence of Acinetobacter bacteria on the skin was associated with the expression of anti-inflammatory molecules and protection against allergic reactions. In a mouse model portion of the study, those same microbes directly inhibited allergic sensitization.

They control the inflammatory response. By controlling whether or not inflammatory or anti-inflammatory molecules are produced, certain skin bacteria can influence the progression and expression of autoimmune diseases like arthritis, psoriasis. Without the relevant bacteria – or with too many or too few – the inflammatory response can go unchecked.

They protect against incursions by pathogens. Staphylococcus epidermis, a common resident on our skin, produces antibacterial peptides that prevent the formation of pathogenic staphylococcus aureus (the microbe responsible for the infamous staph infection) biofilms. One experiment found that human subjects with S. epidermis in their nasal cavities were totally free of S. aureus infections.

Skin bacterial dysbiosis is involved in many skin diseases. Several lines of evidence suggest a role for skin biome dysbiosis in atopic dermatitis (PDF):

  • Atopic dermatitis flare-ups are characterized by lowered diversity in skin bacteria; successful resolution sees a recovery of diversity.
  • Atopic dermatitis flare-ups often occur in areas of low microbial diversity, like the inner knee or elbow crease.
  • Atopic dermatitis patients tend to have S. aureus living on their skin, crowding out commensal bacteria, taking up space, and reducing microbial diversity. The normally commensal S. epidermis may also grow overrepresented and occupy space that could be used by more diverse bacteria.

It’s not just atopic dermatitis. There are also differences between the skin microbiota in healthy patients and patients with eczema, and reduced microbial diversity is commonly found in patients with psoriasis.

The same bacteria can be helpful or harmful depending on the context (PDF). For instance:

  • S. epidermis is normally a commensal bacteria that produces antimicrobial peptides to protect against pathogens. If it breaches the surface of the skin, however, it can become an opportunistic pathogen. This mostly occurs in hospital settings with immunocompromised subjects, usually after surgery.
  • There’s also the case of Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria most often associated with and blamed for acne. P. acnes is present on everyone’s skin, even healthy people without any visible acne. It’s often the only species present on the face and shoulders, suggesting that its presence is normal, not pathological. One helpful byproduct of normal P. acnes metabolism are short chain fatty acids which lower the skin pH and inhibit the growth and colonization of pathogenic microbes.

Some skin bacteria attract mosquitoes. Others repel them. Generally, malaria mosquitoes are attracted to people with low microbial diversity on their skin. Human skin with greater microbial diversity seems to be protective. More specifically, odors produced by the common bacterial species Pseudomonas aeruginosa are less attractive to malaria mosquitoes than odors from four other common skin microbes. This suggests a role for the skin biome in determining a person’s vulnerability to malaria, and perhaps other insect or tick-borne diseases.

It might appear as if the skin biome isn’t as “important” as the gut biome. Acne, eczema, and allergic reactions that make you itch and break out are annoying, but we don’t usually consider them life-threatening. I would caution against that position. For one thing, those conditions can really affect a person’s enjoyment of life. They show on the surface but their effects run deeper. Secondly, we have a lot to learn. We still haven’t identified most of the bacterial species living on our skin. And even the term “species” isn’t exactly accurate for bacteria, since horizontal gene transfer between disparate bacteria and other complexities have researchers questioning whether we even know how to classify bacterial species (or if they exist at all!).

But if there’s a general rule that appears to be true, it’s that greater diversity in the skin biome is preferable to less diversity.

What do we do about it, then? In a future post, I’ll explore the available evidence to figure out how to optimize the health and diversity of our skin biome.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

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TAGS:  skin/hair

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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98 thoughts on “What’s Living on Your Skin?”

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        1. A petri dish within a petri dish.
          The inception of petri dishes.

    1. One of my managers one described my call centre as a petri dish… 🙂

  1. Mark, very interesting article. If you have not already read Dr. Martin Blaser’s book “Missing Microbes” I believe you will find it most interesting. Dr. Blaser is a pioneer in microbiome research.

    1. I just finished it last night, and I agree that it’s fascinating and a very important book! I found myself cataloguing — with increasing dismay — all the antibiotic courses I’d had in my life.

      Another very interesting piece on all this was a cover story in the NY Times Magazine: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/25/magazine/my-no-soap-no-shampoo-bacteria-rich-hygiene-experiment.html?_r=2

      This caused me to change completely my so-called personal hygiene habits, but I’ll wait for the next post to weigh in on all that.

      1. thanks for that link Naomi – I agree with the part about the harmful soaps and shampoos – and just a cool study – 🙂 now I want to check out the book by Blaser –

      2. Fascinating and enlightening article, Naomi. Thanks for the link.

    2. Holy bugs batman. After 71 years, I am still learning stuff. Thank you for this enlightening article. Don’t know if I’ll look at my hands any differently but I will work towards thinking differently.

  2. I’ve wondered about this, as I’ve had some recurring skin issues that seem to be tied somewhat to diet and gut health. Looking forward to the next article!

    1. This explains why my teenage acne disappeared when I quit eating peanut M&M’s back in high school. I thought it was a peanut allergy or something.

      1. Well Wenchy, if peanuts caused the acne, then I guess it was a peanut allergy; or something. Reckon? Hope it’s better now of course! Stay Lucky.

  3. “One experiment found that human subjects with S. epidermis in their nasal cavities were totally free of S. aureus infections.”

    You heard it here……go ahead pick your nose!

  4. I have been studying allergic reactions and foods for over 20 years now. Depending on what I eat, it will manifest either on my mood, bones, or skin, digestion…etc. Chocolate goes right through me…immediately. If not, it constipates me. Dairy gives me acne and boils and dry skin. Corn gives me cold sores and if I continue to eat it, makes me sick. It’s all about what I put in my mouth.

    1. I wonder if your system – your digestion, your system’s capacity to tolerate, work with and it’s reaction to various foods might be affected by what you have to work with when you eat a food. . It may not be all about food – you’ve learned to work around major systemic shortcomings but have yet to find how to fortify and build a more typical robustness into your system. Could this new information about human biome coming to light help?

  5. Look forward to the solutions version of this article! I have skin flare ups on the top of my hands from time to time and tends to get worse through the 6 months of fall/winter/spring.

    Thanks Mark!

    1. I have hives and flare ups around my knees and on my calves. Have been primal for 5 years now. I elminated chemicals in my surroundings and on my body 2 years ago. Seems like my skin is getting more sensitive if I cheat with anything, but especially dairy and nightshades. But now, maybe some of it is external. I am looking forward to the follow up article and some solutions. Mark always delivers!

  6. “Acne, eczema, and allergic reactions that make you itch and break out are annoying, but we don’t usually consider them life-threatening. I would caution against that position. For one thing, those conditions can really affect a person’s enjoyment of life”

    Thank you for pointing this out! Anyone who has had to live with a chronic skin issue knows this is the truth…I hope we learn more about how to treat skin conditions with probiotics like we have with the gut!

  7. As a long term eczema sufferer I’m looking forward to hearing the follow up post!

    1. Ben, if you haven’t already done so, cut out or minimize the starchy foods. I find that a very low-starch diet pretty well eliminates the eczema and hives I tend to get. This includes grains and some starchy vegies such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, etc. A Paleo diet already does this to some extent. Low-starch can also work wonders for IBS and various musculoskeletal issues such as rheumatoid arthritis.

  8. Very interesting. It’s amazing to think that there’s little bacterial communities living all over us! I feel like I should get a bit muddy as a treat for them.

    1. Really? I do that for 5 years now, and I was sure I was the only one doing that! Maybe it’s just because people keep that information for themselves?

      Anyway, I would definitely recommend it to anyone with skin problems, soap can be really harsh for sensitive skin!

      1. Ever since Mark featured an article called “Poo-pooing the ‘Poo” (referring to shampoo) I stopped using shampoo. I stink less and don’t feel grungy, even after working out. My hair, BTW, isn’t greasy any more.

        (For ‘pits, I make my own deodorant out of coconut oil, cornstarch, and baking soda. I freaked out when I couldn’t pronounce 1/2 the ingredients in store-bought antiperspirants/deodorants.)

        1. What works wonderfully for me as a deodorant is apple cider vinegar. Without it I can be quite “ripe” if I haven’t showered for a day or two.

  9. Crazy stuff! I’ve never thought about the skin’s connection with the gut so it’s an interesting topic for me.

  10. Interesting subject I think I never considered. With noticeable benefits, I recently added soil based probiotics, for my gut, to my supplements as I don’t play in the dirt enough.

    For the skin, short of avoiding antibacterial soaps and playing in the dirt more frequently, what’s the solution to increased diversity on the skin? I’ve no experience with this subject.

        1. If I ever find another Jack Russell like my last one, Sammy, I’ll be sure to do that as I can see the benefits..

      1. Yep, dogs are great for bringing in all sorts of bacteria. They don’t clean their feet or have a bidet, and they often roll in all sorts of interesting stuff that can end up on your bed or your lap.

        Otherwise, don’t wash too often. Use a little common sense when preparing food, particularly with salads and other foods that are eaten raw, but don’t get paranoid about it. Let your immune system do the job it was designed for.

  11. A really interesting article. Our WI had a talk and demonstration a few months ago by a lady who makes natural skin care products. She told us not to use anti-bacterial liquid soaps, but to use pure soap. Marks article is a good case not to use anti-bacterial liquid soaps. I know that ordinary soap will kill the less desirable bugs on our hands perfectly well from a course I did many years ago when I worked in the path lab.

    1. Actually, rinsing with plain water does almost as much good as using soap, although most of us prefer to use a little soap in the bathroom and kitchen.

  12. The more I read, the, more the microbiome seems like the key component of health most overlooked–we’ve generally known that diet, sleep and exercise were key, but what about the bugs? Thanks to MDA for raising the awareness–I think improved gut health has been huge for my immunity. And now, for the past two weeks I’ve been using AOBiome mist instead of the usual soap and water. What a difference on the skin. Fascinated to learn more and experience “peace with bacteria!”

  13. I moisturise only with coconut oil. My skin responds well to this. I am interested in how best we feed our bacteria topically as well as with regard to what we put in our mouths…

  14. Hmmmm, wonder if this has anything to do with thick or thin skinned people.

  15. So much for bacteria. What about the critters that are a bit bigger, like eyelash mites? Here a wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demodex

    Note that in the last paragraph of the first section (of the two basic types that live on humans) it says that a suppressed immune system can dramatically cause population increase of these mites which in turn can cause skin problems.

    So eat right, exercise right, and be happy, don’t worry. A roll in the dirt occasionally probably wouldn’t hurt either.

  16. Every time I wash my sheet, I have some mild breakouts the first few days, and I’ve wondered whether it had to do with–as gross as it sounds–the skin microbes in unwashed. It’s caused a lot of tension between with my obsessive-compulsive need for cleanliness and the annoyance of acne at 28. It’s not the detergent either–my clothes, towels, etc., are fine, it’s just the clean sheets that cause the breakouts.

    1. Good day Ben,

      Some questions: Are you doing laundry at home or at a laundry mat?

      How do you dry your clothes? Air dry or dryer? You mentioned detergent, but if you use a dryer do you use dryer sheets? Fabric softener instead of dryer sheets?

      Is the source of your water municipal or well? Is your water filtered?

      1. At home with hard municipal water, and dryer sheets. I figured it might be the clean sheets rather than the laundry itself, since I’m not having any issues with clean clothes I’m changing into every day, while I’m sleeping in the same sheets for a week.

        1. Dryer sheets are bad news. Consider picking up a set of the nubby plastic balls that are designed for the dryer, available online. They are cheap, reusable and last almost forever.

          Alternatively, throw a clean, dry towel into the dryer along with your wet load of wash. This works just as well as dryer sheets and costs nothing. Use an old towel that’s light-colored and won’t fade.

          Another thought, if your bedsheets are a synthetic fabric, consider springing for 100 percent cotton ones–or vice versa. Could be the material is retaining too much residue from the washing/drying process. Some fabrics will do that. Also try using a second rinse for the sheets.

        2. Whenever my wife uses dryer sheets, I wake up with a stuffy nose for the first few days.

          Maybe I’ll set fire to her stash of dryer sheets…. 🙂

        3. Try drying them in the sun. I know that can be hard at times in the states, but I live above the snow line in Eastern Australia, and although I have a dryer, I hardly use it. Either the sun, or the fire during the winter. Even a cloudy day will dry clothes with a breeze, and sheets (I only use cotton), dried in the sun feel, and smell wonderful! Plus it’s free!;)

    2. Aha, another sensitive skin person!

      Are your sheets “no-wrinkle” or “easy care”? If so, they have been treated or finished with formaldehyde, which can cause contact dermatitis in some people. Levels tend to rise with higher temperatures and humidity, so – and I’m only speculating – it’s possible that every time you wash the sheets and put them through a dryer cycle, some formaldehyde is released. Try organic sheets and see if that doesn’t solve your problem.

  17. I love microbiology! I believe microbes are the key factor in why an unprocessed/organic diet makes sense. Pediococcus pentosans is antimicrobial to listeria and has been an unknown ally for meat preservation long before Pasteurization. This goes for many species of lactobacilli Ultraviolet light is is anti-microbial this may be why our winter skin issues alleviate when we expose our bare skin to the sun in summer months. If one suspects skin problems to be microbial in nature, the capric acid in coconut oil may be the fix. This link makes a compelling argument to keep some coconut oil at bedside to minimize the microbial mischief from “indoor sports”


  18. I have no doubt that daily showering, often with antibacterial soaps, have a role in many individual’s skin issues.

    No longer in business, I shower on an “as needed” basis. Need being defined as I’m starting to smell myself, or my skin just feels clogged with its own oils, or an upcoming social event. I live in Florida without air conditioning, and I ride my bike hard often. Usually just a simple soapless shower with a wash cloth is all I need by any measure. If I’m feeling quite grungy, Ivory soap gets the nod.

    Of course, anyone following Richard Nikoley knows of his no soap, no shampoo multi-year experiment.

  19. I hate taking showers. Despise them. (I know, I’m weird) I’m also NEVER sick. I mean never. My husband on the other hand cannot leave the house without showering. Ever. Single. Day. He’s always sick. Connection? I’d like to think so.

    I’m also the one standing in the woods going “what mosquitoes?” while everone else is getting chewed up. Lol.

    1. That’s interesting, never thought of that.
      If you don’t mind me asking how do you clean yourself and what with.

    2. I shower most days but don’t use soap all over my body, just on those necessary places. As I’ve gotten older I find that even mild soap dries out my skin too much, and I dislike needing to use lotion.

      I never use antibacterial products and have never bought into the notion that they are necessary. We don’t use them on ourselves or in our house, and we never get sick. Seriously, it’s been well over a decade since I’ve had so much as a cold, so I must be doing something right.

      1. Thanks Shary for your advice, will try!! You might be into something there, I do shower with hot water…will have to downgrade or go cold turkey…????

    3. I hate washing myself…there I have said it, never thought I will but my mind is always beaten over by my gut, any connection there!!??

      So I tend to avoid or ignore the shower…well all my childhood we only has weekly bath in boiled water no central heating folks, we are talking eastern Europe but also i never got cold, even now cold and flu never had don’t know what it is BUT

      What I am dealing with and eating paleo didn’t solve it YET is that I have got a rare skin condition as doctor out it, tends towards allergy to water ???? as it flares after contact with water always and is like a mix of hives and eczema that would go easily unnoticed afterwards…

      Add to that a chronic eyelashes dandruff or what ever you call them and again it flares just after contact with water even worse with cleaning products..

      Plus dandruff which again gets worse right after washing my hair, give it few days and you think is not there..

      So I see Mark’s point in there and cannot wait for next article and please also a good whole article on dandruff, believe many are in need of clarification, what is going on on our head and we don’t know ????

      1. Now thinking about it my skin condition is right on my shoulder blades where the shower water goes and my upper arms and I developed later on when we started to have indoor bathroom ????

        Real proof, I have 2 kids the older as the first we did everything right we overprotect him, daily bath since birth, cleaned inside nose inside ear over clothing no playing in the dirt clear clean always
        Second kid weekly baths or twice a week, I rarely wash his hands in a day or mind if he plays in the mud…

        Results, oldest always runny nose, infections ear and nose, go figure!! While the youngest never got cold ib his life 3 years now never sick, not one infection!!!!

        What else can I say??!??

        1. Just a thought, but the hives and eczema could be caused by something else, and the water from the shower is just aggravating an already existing condition. Very warm water in particular will do that. You’re probably allergic either to something you’re eating or that is coming in contact with your skin, although I doubt that it’s the water.

          Try using cool or even cold water to shower. Specifically, get wet all over, then move away from the water to soap wherever desired. Step back into the cool water and rinse off quickly. Don’t rub your skin with the towel; just blot up the moisture instead. If it’s available where you are, try using a non-soap product to wash with.

        2. It sounds as though the reason for all the assorted problems you have is systemic candida. Systemic candida can also be the root cause for a lot of skin problems. There’s lots of info about it and various cures(some more and some less successful) on the internet. By far the best is a specific probiotic blend developed by the Japanese. You can find out more about it at http://www.candidasupport.org

      2. Ionela,

        Are you using a commercial shampoo? If so, start washing your hair with pure soap (containing only water, lye, and olive oil). It will take a few weeks to a few months for your scalp to settle down and get back to normal, so be patient.

        I have no problem getting all the (home-made) soap out of my hair, but some people prefer to finish off with a rinse of diluted white vinegar.

        PS: I also brush my teeth with the same soap, but very diluted!

        1. I keep a glass bottle of rainwater with a dash of ACV and 2-3 drops each of rosemary and lavender oils for a post- shampoo rinse. 1 litre lasts about 6 washes, it feels great on my scalp, stops any itching.

    4. Funny, your husband takes showers every day, mine takes them rarely. He’s always sick too. I take one everyday to feel warm and for the negative ions from the water. However, since I began using a simple soap cut with a LOT of water I no longer need to use deodorant.
      I typically don’t get eaten by the mosquitoes either, I thought maybe it’s what I eat/don’t eat.
      Maybe you and I are the same person in alternate universes? No? Ahahahaha

  20. In actuality, we probably don’t want to know what all lives on our skin (eewww!) but it’s probably not a good idea to try to get rid of the little critters. I know people who knock themselves out trying to eradicate all the germs and bacteria on themselves, their kids, and in their homes. Interestingly, they seem to catch everything that’s going around. A few billion germs and microbes aren’t a bad thing. They help keep the immune system active and functioning properly. Human beings were never meant to live in a near-sterile environment.

    1. I’m pretty sure NASA only factors in politically correct BS these days. Space flight seems to be low down on their list of priorities.

  21. Hmmmm, interesting! I’ve never had a single mosquito bite ever….. Better thank all that bacteria on my skin! ????
    The rest of my family get eaten alive in summer, they also get sick much more often than I do. I’ve not been sick once this year, yet the rest of my family have had cold after cold after cold!

  22. Judging by the news today, re America’s oldest living veteran (108, so far), drinking whiskey, smoking cigars, and putting your worries in God’s hands, appear to be good ways to improve your skin’s bacterial population. ; )

      1. Psudomonas aeruginosa (how do you change this to italics in a blog post?)is a nasty bug.

    1. A bit picky, don’t you think? Italics might be proper English but it’s usage is often more of a nicety than a necessity. A different font isn’t going to change the meaning. All that’s really needed for nonprofessional purposes is accurate spelling.

      1. The binomial should be written in a different font (usually italic) from the rest of the content to set it apart. This is standard practice, even in papers written for a lay audience, as it makes for easier reading. If you’re not interested in the binomial, it’s easier to skim over it if it is italicised. If you are interested, you can scan the text and find the binomials much more easily.

  23. I would bet that the skin microbiome and intestinal microbiome interact both directly and indirectly. Afterall, how many of us have had massive improvements in skin quality since going paleo in diet alone? I would bet that changes in the skin microbiome affect the gut microbiome and vice versa.

  24. Can we all spell Symbiosis? I only wash my entire body with plain old soap if I’ve been into insulation all day at work. Lots of baths make for a good human soup! And I’ve never trusted the whole antibacterial thing. No skin issues and I rarely get sick.

  25. Great article as always Mark! It is great to read articles in the health and fitness field that are not just about exercise and nutrition. Whilst those two are important there are many other factors to living a healthy life.

  26. Anti-bacterial soaps kill ALL bacteria, good and bad. Time to re-evaluate my cleansing habits…
    Looking forward to the follow up post.

  27. Thanks for this article – and we have already stopped using anti-bacterial soaps and chemical laden shampoos, etc.

    anyhow, there are some crazy skin diseases going around – and when I was healing from a skin condition earlier this year (which is what led me to awesome MDA) well in my own research I discovered some crazy skin diseases – which include “super scabies” – human skin loving collembola – and a condition called “morgellons” which is just starting to be taken seriously in the med. community.

    The research is very new – but I guess the huge outbreak w/ Morgellons was around 2008 and 2009 – and what I find VERY interesting is that the folks that have “healed” from it – which took years in many cases (Mel, Romona, Mr. CS) well they did it naturally – but only after they realized the docs could not help them.

    Many folks have gone bankrupt because morgellons is a disease that gets in the gut and also deep in the subcutaneous tissue of the skin (hypodermis) – where fungal gnats and worms and biofilms take up residence (and feeds off of sugar) and are very hard to get rid of – and the success stories front those who have healed…. well it was –

    by alkalizing the body – (with baking soda/borax – lemon water, etc.)
    by eliminating all sugar and yeasty carbs/bread –
    by light workouts
    by cleansing the gut
    by eating good sources of protein (primal diet – hello…. 🙂 –
    and by naturally ridding their body of the fungal and bacterial strains that were allowed to take residence likely because of a compromised immune system (and many victims had years of antibiotic scripts in their past – which likely allowed the mucosa lining in their gut to be covered in candida and then made them vulnerable).

    some say nanotechnology may be related to these skin things – and that super scabies and morgellons may be like lyme disease – intended to be a weapon of war – but there are studies from the 1600’s and the 1940’s with patients who had diseases with almost identical symptoms – suggesting it has been around a long time…

    and that leads me to the two thumbs up for this post –

    because this makes SO MUCH sense – it all comes down to the “microbial diversity” on skin – and “greater diversity in the skin biome is preferable to less diversity” – thanks Mark –
    Now I really look forward to the part 2 of this (how to optimize the health and diversity of our skin biome) – I really look forward to it –

    1. Okay, I have one more thing to share… when I was in the throws of my skin affliction last spring – well MDA helped me in a few ways – and one of them was with the naturalness of bare feet.

      You see, I could not wear shoes – even slides and flip flops could not be worn because sores would develop under them. Now it was so hard for me to walk barefoot in general – but especially in the kitchen. We have two labs and well, I know dogs can carry parasites even with a good regime…. and so it would creep me out – I also was so conditioned…
      but I changed! because we can change our perception of things – \
      and in one of mark’s bare feet article – Linked below – well he said we can change our perception of “pain” – but it also reminded me that we can change our perception of “gross” or “yuck” – and so I would walk around in the kitchen – bare feet – taking deep breathes saying to myself, “no, this is a good thing – going bare feet is healthy – this is good for me.”

      and now – whew – I love it – I still sprinkle some baking soda down to walk on – but now I whip off those shoes for some barefoot freedom! yeah baby!


  28. Interesting article! It is important to realize that healthy lifestyle is not just about excercising and eating healthy….

  29. Itchy skin, including intense itching of the vulva, is the primary manifestation of seasonal allergies for me. I’m mostly shower no more than every three days and have never used soap.

    During allergy season, however, I tend to scrub my skin with a warm washcloth every day on the theory that will remove the pollens that may be accumulating. It has helped to some degree, especially when we are working outside for extended periods in the summer without easy access to showers (my husband is an outdoor showman and we spend about six weeks in the summer working at county fairs with only spotty access to bathhouses).

    Really looking forward to specific steps to increase the bacteria that may be protective against allergies.

    1. They probably contain triclosan — pretty nasty stuff, and, unfortunately, appearing in more and more products, from cutting boards to athletic socks. Why are people so stupid?!!?

      1. Sorry, I wasn’t calling YOU stupid. You’re asking, and that’s what everyone should be doing, instead of buying into the hype about germ-free everything!

        (I should probably stop working on three posts at the same time!) 😉

        1. I know : I do the same thing. Thanks for the newsletters. Ooooooook

  30. It’s for this reason that I don’t use soap or any foaming cleanser on my skin any more. Just water and a good wash cloth. It’s been great. Softer, moister skin, and believe it or not, I smell better. I can’t believe we were brainwashed for so long that we needed to strip everything off our skin to be clean and healthy. It’s insanity!

  31. I stopped using shampoo years ago, and after an initial month of oily hair, my hair has just the right natural shine. On a trip to Japan, I noticed that my feet stank a lot. First I tried soaping and cleaning them more, but then I realized what was different was that I was soaping them at all. Usually when taking a standing shower, you tend to forget to thoroughly wash your feet, but Japan has all those sit down public baths which encourage you to wash everything. So I recently stopped using soap during showers (though still on my hands before cooking and after toilet) and I now have no body odour issues. It’s all about encouraging the right balance of bacteria on your skin!

  32. “Acne, eczema, and allergic reactions…can really affect a person’s enjoyment of life”

    This is fascinating and poignant. Too many times I’ve put of getting a skin condition treated because it’s just annoying and not life threatening. Even after going paleo, I struggle with acne. Are there paleo or primal skin products that you or the community recommend beyond:
    1) staying away from artificial products and cleansers
    2) water only showers or natural products

  33. I have stopped using soap and shampoo when showering, which is still do most days. 1. Think of how awesome and complex our bodies are. We would be believe that stripping it daily it of it’s naturally occurring surface (oils, microbes, etc) is a good idea. 2. I don’t really get that dirty and when I do, I believe our bodies surface acts as Teflon. Everything rinses off pretty easy. 3. I don’t stink. 4. I no longer get eczema. 5. People have only been bathing daily for just over 100 years. 6. My hair is healthy but not greasy. 7. If it do get a funk near my junk, I will use a little soap (maybe 4 times in the last 5 months). 8. I don’t smell like a French whore…aka Old Spice soap, Irish Spring, Axe and any of those.

    After the bathroom and preparing / handling food, I do still use soap.

    I believe using the soaps (well detergents) and shampoos we are told to daily are just a marketing tool for P&G and J&J.

    I started this after hearing the Surgeon General say we should all just stay out of the sun. It got me thinking that all this skin cancer stuff may be self induced by, again, stripping the body of it’s natural defenses.

    Laundry soap, sunscreen and commercial deodorants are next on my list.