Should we be bathing daily?

At least 80 per cent of Australians bathe or shower at least once daily. However, a hot daily shower can damage your skin, according to Associate Professor Stephen Shumack, President of the Australasian College of Dermatologists.

“Over-washing causes ‘defatting’ of the skin – getting rid of the natural body oils we produce to protect the skin cells. This can cause actual damage making them more permeable to bacteria or viruses, precipitating itchy skin, dryness, flakiness and worsening conditions like eczema.”

“The temperature of the water and over-lathering is the main problem. Being in the shower too long also isn’t good.”

“Over-washing causes ‘defatting’ of the skin – getting rid of the natural body oils we produce to protect the skin cells. This can cause actual damage making them more permeable to bacteria or viruses, precipitating itchy skin, dryness, flakiness and worsening conditions like eczema.”

Research reveals our skin is an ecosystem of billions of bacteria, viruses and fungi and these need to be in balance for our health.

“If you over-shower you are altering the natural distribution of good bacteria on skin,” Shumack reveals. “This may predispose you to other bugs on the skin such as pityriasis, an overgrowth of yeast organism on skin, more common in those who shower a lot.”

It is now thought that an imbalance in the skin’s flora plays a role in many health conditions including acne and allergies like asthma.

How often should we shower?

According to Shumack. “A sedentary person can get away with a shower once, twice or three times a week, especially in winter. It varies on your skin type and what you are doing.” If you’re sweaty and dirty, you need a shower, while those with sensitive skins – the elderly and babies – need less showering time.”

“It’s only in the last fifty to sixty years (since the advent of bathrooms with showers) that the idea of a daily shower has become commonplace.”

Shumack recommends a one or two minute shower in lukewarm water, focusing on the armpits, groin and any areas covered in dirt.

What about using soap?

“Soaps are alkaline and tend to dissolve the skin barrier. The skin surface is meant to be quite acidic and good bacteria like an acidic skin environment. Squeaky clean is not healthy.” says Greg Goodman, chief surgeon at the Skin & Cancer Foundation Victoria, and professor at Monash University.

Goodman advocates using soap-free cleansers. “It’s important to get rid of the ravages of daily wear and tear, slime and grime and pollution – your body is trying to do that anyway.”

To avoid irritation and skin dryness, it’s best to avoid bubble baths and fragrances, foaming agents and detergents such as lauryl sulphate in body wash and liquid soap, according to Nicole Bijlsma, building biologist, naturopath, and author of Healthy Home, Healthy Family.


 

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald