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How your skin protects your immune system and is also a mirror to your general wellbeing.

Here’s one axiom we all buy into. If we want to live healthily and well, it’s best to practice moderation in all things. After all, if we spend too much time in the sun, we run the risk of prematurely aging our skin or even getting skin cancer. But get too little sun and we deny our bodies essential Vitamin D, leading to a compromised immune system and even SAD.

And what about alcohol? There’s evidence that a glass of wine can be good for us, but drink too much and we run the risk of all sorts of health problems, including liver disease. And food. Takeaways once in a while is good for the soul, a way to cherish ourselves and our families. If we eat too much of it however, we run the risk of all sorts of complicating conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

In the end, it makes sense, for the sake of our wellbeing, that we find a middle ground for almost everything we do – giving ourselves permission to enjoy those things we love, but with a clear understanding that excess will, more likely than not, do us harm.

It’s a pity then that we don’t always practice moderation when it comes to our skin.

Our skin is a miraculous organ, a complex and diverse ecosystem that serves both as a protective wall, shielding us from pathogens in the outside world, and also – in terms of its look and condition - as a mirror to our wellbeing.

Only now, though, are scientists and doctors coming to terms with just how important it is to our general health, and their findings might surprise you.

You see, our desire to be clean, and to wash regularly, is harming our skin, and, very likely, our health as well. In truth, washing with soap, or even washing at all, is a relatively recent phenomenon in the Western world. It’s only in the last 70 years, as we’ve been increasingly exposed to the marketing efforts of large personal care companies, that we’ve developed the belief that clean, sterile, pristine smelling skin is essential to our good health.

In fact, that’s not the case. With the singular exception of washing our hands – a world-changing innovation in public health (and of real importance to us right now) – there’s a strong argument to be mounted that we wash far too often and use far too many cleaning agents and deodorants to keep us clean and smelling good.

As we noted above, our skin is home to a complex and diverse ecosystem - a fertile rainforest if you like - home to thousands of species of bacterium, fungi, viruses and mites. The problem is, excessive washing is turning our skin into a sterile and barren desert.

A comparison with our planet’s very own skin – dirt – is apt here. Just one teaspoon of compost-rich organic soil may host up to 1 billion helpful bacteria from 15,000 species. But wash chemicals through it (which we continually do when we use synthetic herbicides and pesticides), and that same teaspoon of earth may carry as few as 100 helpful bacteria.

Unfortunately, soap (and other products full of synthetic chemicals) destroy the helpful bacteria and fungi that live on our skin in much the same way, undermining their ability to protect us from environmental toxins, and leading instead to a compromised immune system, allergies, and chronic skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, all of which have grown to epidemic proportions in the last few decades. 

We all know about the importance of healthy gut flora, and many of us regularly purchase yoghurts or health drinks that are full of probiotics, so that we can colonize ourselves with bacteria. Sadly, we’re not doing the same thing for our skin.

What then, should we do? If we want to care for our immune system and our general wellbeing, should we start to wash less?

The answer, sadly (we love our hot showers!), is yes. If we cut back on the number of times we wash, and we’re more parsimonious with our use of soap (except for washing our hands), then we’ll give our skin the chance to thrive, allowing it to act as the healthy barrier it is meant to be, protecting us from infection and leaving us radiant, inside and out!

This blog post was written for educational purposes only. It is not designed to diagnose, treat or cure. For individual health concerns World Organics recommends that you consult with a relevant health professional.