Why Dirty Skin is Healthy Skin

We’re trying to reverse the thinking that cleaner is better. Our society has moved towards an era of antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizers, disinfecting solutions…we’re constantly scrubbing, cleaning, wiping. So what is the impact of all of this cleanliness on our skin?

The truth is, it’s really bad for your skin.

Our skin is colonized by a diverse, specific, and intricate collection of bacteria…actually between 10,000 and 1,000,000 units per square centimeter…that is unique to each of us. There are also yeasts and parasites that exist in a symbiotic relationship with those bacteria. When we interrupt this delicately orchestrated balance of organisms, it can lead to sensitivity, irritation, infections, and inflammation. That collection of bacteria and yeasts also works to protect our skin from all of the environmental stresses (ultraviolet radiation, pollution, etc).

In the field of dermatology, we are seeing an increase in the incidence of sensitive skin, eczema, inflammation and related conditions. In our households and daily lives, we might be experiencing an increased drive towards cleanliness: long hot shower scrubbing at our skin, anibacterial soaps and skin products, exfoliating products. Many days in my practice, I get questions from patients about why their skin is more sensitive. When we “overclean” our skin, we essentially strip it of all of those protective organisms, the probiotics. These organisms help with regulating everything in our skin from ceramides that help provide a protective barrier, to anti-inflammatory properties, to temperature regulation.

What can we do to protect the intentional and effective balance of bacteria, yeast and parasite on our skin to optimize skin health? Here are the tips that I give to my patients

  1. Avoid hand sanitizing gels, lotions, and creams
  2. Wash with gentle soaps and cleansers such as Dove, Cetaphil cleanser, or Cerave cleanser
  3. Avoid antibacterial wipes
  4. Avoid harsh and aggressive exfoliating products
  5. Take warm, not hot, showers or baths
  6. Bathe once daily at the most
  7. Moisturize all of your skin regularly with a gentle and effective moisturizing product such as Cerave or Cetaphil

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