“I stopped taking a shower and life went on”: preventive medicine expert and Yale professor who questions how and how much we bathe | International News

“Perfectly fine,” Dr. James Hamblin answers the question of how he feels five years after making the decision to stop showering.

“You get used to it. It feels normal,” he told BBC Mundo in the United States.

Hamblin is 37 years old, a professor at the School of Public Health at Yale University and a specialist in preventive medicine.

He is also one of the journalists of the American magazine The Atlantic, in which he wrote: I gave up the shower and life went on (I stopped taking a shower and life went on).

“We spend two full years of our lives bathing. How much of this time (and money and water) is a loss?”, Says the article published in 2016.

This year he published another headline: You go too far (You go too far).

And although he insists that let’s never stop washing our hands with soap, believes that, together with other parts of the body, we should not be so persistent.

We didn’t just talk about his decision, but about the five years of research that led to the book: Clean: The new science of skin and the beauty of doing less (Clean: The New Science of Skin and the Beauty of Doing Less), which he published this year.

And it is that, in fact, both things are intertwined.

As an experiment

So when we ask him why he stopped taking a shower, he pauses and answers:

How necessary is it to bathe almost every day and how necessary are the products we use when we do it?

“Well, it’s a long story and it really takes a book to explain it. But I wanted to understand what’s going on.”

“I know about a lot of people who take very little showering. I knew it was possible, but I wanted to try this for myself, to see what the effect would be.”

And in 2015, he made the decision. What did you notice? What was the effect?

“It’s a long answer again,” he says. “Over time your body gets used to it more and more it doesn’t smell so bad if you don’t use soap and deodorant “.

“And your skin doesn’t get as oily when you stop using harsh soaps.”

“Many people use shampoo to remove oils from their hair and then apply a conditioner to add synthetic oils. If you can break that cycle, your hair will look like it was when you started using these products.”

“But the main thing is to understand that it takes time (to see the effect), it doesn’t happen overnight, is not immediate. “

She points out that in her case it was a gradual process: she started using less soap, shampoo and deodorant and bathing less often, which she used to do almost every day.

“There were times when I wanted to take a shower because I missed him, he smelled bad and I felt fat. But that started to happen to me. every time less“.

And the reason is that as he used “less and less”, he began to need “less and less”.

Four years ago

In his 2016 article, Hamblin wrote that “body odor is the product of bacteria that live on our skin and feed on the oily secretions of sweat and sebaceous glands at the base of the hair follicles.”

We are constantly followed by microbes, but not all of them cause us problems.

Applying products to the skin and hair every day “changes a kind of balance between skin oils and the bacteria that live” in it.

“When you take an aggressive shower, destroy ecosystems. They repopulate quickly, but the species remain unbalanced and tend to favor the types of microbes that produce odor, “he explained in the text.

But after a while, there is a regulatory process: “Your ecosystem is reaching a stable state and you stop smelling bad (…) You don’t smell like rose water (…) You just smell like man. “

In fact, in an interview published this year on the Yale University website, Hamblin said that it was not that I did not smell, but that “the microbial populations in my body do not produce the classic stench of the body that I always do.” .

Between smells

In August, Amy Barrett, a journalist from BBC Science Focushe asked Hamblin if he was worried he might “smell” and that people were “too polite” to make him notice.

Fewer showers means fewer products to buy.

And he said that for some time he had to ask “colleagues, friends and people he knew would be honest” to make sure he was not the only one who did not perceive an unpleasant odor.

That’s how it got to, he explains, a point where it doesn’t produce the bad smell we’re so familiar with.

He has an “own” smell, which his wife likes and which for other people “is not bad”.

“For most of our history, we’ve had smells that were part of as I communicated with other people, “he explained.

And that, lately, has been largely removed from our social biology.

“It simply came to our notice then it doesn’t smell anything or anything it smells like perfume, cologne, body wash or something else means that it smells bad. If there is a detectable human odor, it is negative. “

Barrett also asked him what exactly he meant when he said he stopped taking a bath five years ago: Did you go from shower to bath? How is the routine?

“In the book I say it in a traditional sense. I rinse when I need or when I want, just with water, fastEspecially when I have hair that looks like I just woke up or if I had something visibly dirty. But you can exfoliate, you can remove the oils simply by rubbing your hands and combing your hair occasionally. And that’s it. “

Hand washing with soap and brushing teeth are still essential in the cleaning regimen.


Less and less showering to see her body’s reaction was part of her book’s research process.

Hamblin is also the host of a health video series called “If Our Bodies Could Talk.”

He also spoke with a wide range of people, including specialists in various fields, such as dermatologists, immunologists, allergists, even theologians.

He was in soap factories and microbiology laboratories and entered theory and history a few centuries ago to return to what he is today. thriving industry of skin products.

Is the shower almost every day with different products, soaps, gels, creams, a modern concept?

“Yes because we weren’t used to running water. Most people have only had access to running water in the last hundred years. “

“It was something that maybe the king could do, kings and queens, but that people could only do occasionally. Maybe they were going to a river or a lake, but it wasn’t something we had to do every day. “

“I also didn’t have the capacity to mass produce. So a lot of people used homemade soaps and didn’t use them every day because they were so hard on the skin. It’s very modern.”

Why do you wonder how we went and how often we do it? And it’s not just about the products we use, it’s about how often we bathe, right?

“It is a very new event in human history: that we have to spend so much time, money and resources bathing and if this is combined with the knowledge we have about the skin microbiome. I’m curious to think that we are probably doing too much and it could be beneficial to reduce. “

Between billions

According to Hamblin, “we always have billions of microbes in us it does not cause us any disease“.

Hamblin does not stop washing his hands with soap.

“And when we wash our skin, we change those microbial populations and we still don’t fully understand whether this is good or bad.”

And he insists that hands are an exception, as this is extremely important to avoid contracting infections and spreading them.

“The microbes on our skin are just as important to its appearance and our health as the gut microbiota is to the digestive system.”

However, historically, we have associated microbes with something negative “because we found them” only when looking for the causes of the disease.

“But now, in the last decadeBecause we have DNA sequencing technology, we know that microbes are everywhere and generally do not cause disease. It’s a very small minority that does, “he said.

“That should make people rethink what they’re trying to do when they’re cleaning, because of course we want to get rid of the disease caused by microbes, but we don’t want to get rid of them all.”

An excellent interface

And, as he explained in the BBC Science Focus interview, the skin is a fundamental immune organ.

Our skin is a great ally of the immune system.

“These microbes on our skin are the interface between the natural world and us,” he said.

“The immune cells in our blood filter through the skin and are in contact with the signals we receive from our environment,” and in doing so, it helps us perceive and understand it.

And that’s the key, so that the immune system “does not overreact to things that are harmless and reacts in a very effective for things that are“.

Do you think we have a misconception about what we need to be clean?

“I don’t think everyone shares the same idea of ​​what it means to be clean,” he says.

Some people associate it with the elimination of germs and microbes, but we must remember that they are always with us and not all of them are bad.

“Maybe it’s more of a feeling. In fact, it’s very difficult to define.”

Has the habit of taking a shower been overestimated?

“I would say it’s a preference, but not a medical necessity.”

While many people enjoy bathing, others do not take a shower and feel well, says the doctor.

If you want to try

Its minimalist approach means not only less time in the shower, but less packaging and containers and, of course, less water.

Some people who want to try a change may start with shorter and less frequent showers to see how they feel, says the expert.

“I don’t tell people they should give up (the bathroom),” says Hamblin.

He emphasizes that he has no interest in suggesting what is right and what is wrong or suggesting that his approach is the best for everyone. It’s just the one that works for him.

“But for those people who have had skin problems or would just like to try it, I would say do less and start slowly and go where you feel good. “

For example, less shampoo has been a starting point for some, while others prefer to start with a milder deodorant.

“It simply came to our notice then shorter, less frequent, colder showers“Less soap,” he says.

“It doesn’t have to be dramatic.”

And there is something he considers essential: when we think about the health of our skin, it is important to remember that it is largely the result of our lifestyle, the way we sleep, what we eat, the levels stress, our physical activity, what drinks we drink, among other factors.

“The industry that sells personal care products and soaps is very focused on selling topical solutions (external and local applications).”

Although some may be helpful, he says, it is important to think about a dermatological health approach “inside out”.

He believes that it is essential to distinguish what science is from what marketing is, because sometimes we use more products than we really need, because of the belief that this makes us healthier.

But, as you have already said, less can become more. (I)