If you’re like my friend Marlene, you’ll recoil when I tell you I don’t use soap when I shower. Nope. I don’t. I use water. That’s it. (But, I always wash my hands with soap.)
When I started this regimen, I had no idea I was part of a trend. An Atlantic writer recently published an entire book based on the soapless showering idea. Who knew? I started skipping the soap in the shower years ago when I developed severe eczema that only got worse with conventional treatments.
I saw multiple doctors who offered fairly toxic unguents to smear on my skin (ignoring the horrific warning labels on the tubes), but nothing helped my eczema. Finally, I took matters into my own hands and stopped using almost every substance except water on my skin.
After skipping the soap for a while, the nasty eczema went away. I didn’t return to showering with soap because my skin felt better without it. My skin rarely needs moisturizer because it doesn’t dry out. It’s not oily either. It’s just right, as Goldilocks would say.
Studies show skin has its own microbiome. According the Harvard Health Blog, soaping up daily, especially with antibacterial soap, can dry out your skin and remove the helpful bacteria that keeps your skin healthy, allowing the nasty bugs to proliferate. Dry, cracked skin is more vulnerable to infection. Exposure to normal bacteria and a little dirt helps keep our immune systems functioning correctly.
I also developed crippling hand eczema, which I disappeared after I stopped using dish detergent and liquid soap (which is usually detergent) to wash my hands. Liquid soap can contain questionable chemicals, such as propylene glycol (found in antifreeze) and fragrance, one of the most toxic ingredients in products used on skin. I never want hand eczema to return, so I’m careful to wash my hands (and dishes) only with castile soap.
But for showing, water alone does the trick for me. Water is an amazing solvent that washes away dirt and sweat. Washing with soap removes dirt yes, but it also disturbs the microbiome and removes the natural oils that keep skin healthy.
My husband and children don’t follow my trendy soapless showering regimen, but they don’t have eczema (yet). I didn’t develop eczema until after my third child was born. Severe eczema followed a few years later.
For handwashing and my family’s use, I purchase Kirk’s scentless castile soap. I check the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website to find the safest skin care products and toiletries for my family. I buy natural soaps and shampoos to avoid exposing my family to harmful chemicals.
Yes, I still use shampoo to wash my hair, but not a lot of it. And I use apple cider vinegar and baking soda as adjuncts to my mostly natural shampoo. If I return from my garden covered in mud, I may use a little soap to remove any stubborn mud, but most of the time, water from the shower works fine to clean off the dirt and sweat.
My husband’s favorite saying is “When in doubt, leave it out,” which applies to much of what I do to keep my family healthy. Showering without soap isn’t for everyone, but it works fine for me. I don’t stink (my children would not hesitate to tell me if I did) or feel grungy, and seeds don’t grow in the dirt on my skin (a la Mary Poppins).
Always wash your hands with soap, especially during this dangerous pandemic. If you have allergies and eczema, as I do, skipping the soap when you shower just might make your skin feel better.