Why You Should Love Your Skin's Bacteria

December 02, 2014

          The average human body has about 22 square feet of skin, weighing in at about 8 pounds. To put this into perspective – a standard doorway is 21 square feet - if you were to peal off and spread out the average adult’s skin, it would fill all of that space.

          Scattered across this vast canvass and hiding in all of the crevasses of your skin are trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and mites. Before you run off to take a shower and drench yourself in soap, know this, your skin’s bacteria is a good thing. There is a ton of awesome research available about our skin biome that tells us that all the creepy crawlies living on our skin, who number in the billion per centimeter of skin, are supposed to be there and they do good things.

          Skin is your largest organ, and it protects your internal organs from outside elements like extreme temperatures, the sun's ultraviolet rays and dangerous chemicals. This shield also helps you retain water, prevent infections and produce essential proteins and vitamins. To do all of these important jobs you need a lot of skin and it needs to be healthy with proper microbes.

          All of these skin microbes are working to our advantage all the time. They’re crawling, reproducing, digesting, and secreting various fluids all over the surface of our bodies. It’s a beautiful thing that they’re doing all of this to give us healthy skin. Yet, most of us have been conditioned to use soap all the time. To scrub with rough exfoliating sponges in order to be sure that we remove anything lingering on our skin. The sad part is, that when we do this, we are removing too much of our skin biome – our healthy skin bacteria! It’s easy to shutter and say GROSS at the thought that we really shouldn’t be washing these microbes away. We need them to be healthy and vibrant because skin bacteria help determine our skin’s immune response, vulnerability to allergies, wound healing, and susceptibility to certain skin diseases, to name just a few things they do for us.

          I’m not suggesting that you stop using soap. Here are some suggestions on how you can help protect your body’s natural healthy biome and promote your skin to be it’s healthiest, while also living in a modern world of scary gross things.

  1. Avoid antibacterial soaps and lotions.  Triclosan, the principle antibiotic found in antibacterial soaps, has received lots of negative press, even in the mainstream. It crosses the placentaand induces antibiotic resistance. But make sure you’re not using it. Check your labels for anything resembling “anti-bacterial.” Use natural soaps that have ingredients you can pronounce. My favorite is Dr. Bronner’s Magical Soaps.
  2. Wash your hands with soap, but don’t be so liberal with other parts of the body unless they really need it. Handling raw chicken? Yeah, wash up. Flu going around? Wash up. Regular soap isn’t chemically antibacterial, so using it won’t promote antibiotic resistanceor wage chemical warfare on the good guys, but it does work by destroying the “bad” stuff so you’ll be safe.
  3. Avoid antiperspirants. Using them reduces microbial diversity of the armpit, and they just make you smell worse in the long run. Sweating is a natural physiological process. It is not safe or healthy to block sweating by literally clogging your sweat pores with aluminum. Scientists have dubbed armpits the “rain forests” of the skin biome. They’re a powerful source of microbial diversity. Ever wonder why our armpits sweat so much and get stinky. It’s because they are special and important. Don’t kill off your armpit’s rainforest with chemicals. Replenish them with healthy, natural and organic ingredients like what’s in Love Myself Organics deodorant.

    4. Get comfortable with the idea of “bacteria” on your skin. This can be a tricky one. We’ve all seen those microscope images of what bacteria looks like and it just seems gross that they’re living on our skin. Embrace the beauty of these ugly little critters and allow them to do their job. Treat them with gentle soap that’s chemical free and don’t worry about scrubbing too hard. When you use lotions, use all natural brands with ingredients you can trust.

Love the skin you’re in…and love all the bacteria that makes it so special!




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