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Man who hasn't showered daily in 4 years praises benefits

Be honest, when was the last time you washed your hair...? Sales figures for shampoo and deodorant indicate that many of us are having a more relaxed approach to personal hygiene during lockdown, but could skipping your daily shower actually be good for you? Well, James Hamblin - author of new book ‘Clean’ - has felt the health benefits after giving up conventional washing four years ago and claims that not only is it better for our skin, but better for our minds too.

James Hamblin M.D. is a preventive medicine physician and staff writer at The Atlantic magazine who has stopped regular showering in the last 4 years and never uses soaps, shampoos or conditioners.

James used to shower once or twice a day and would use soaps or body washes with every shower. 'I used to shower at least once a day. Maybe twice if I had been to the gym, or had gotten dirty.' says James. 'I thought it was completely normal to be lathering yourself with shampoos, conditioners, gels and moisturisers - but when I started researching more into showering - and the products we use - my thinking shifted completely.'

However he stopped showering with shampoo, lotion, conditioner etc around four years ago. He will occasionally ‘rinse’ if he is physically dirty - just washing with plain water - but steers clear of using any products. He said, 'It’s been something that I’ve been looking into for a while now. A lot of these ‘hygiene’ products strip away the natural oils and microbes on your skin and disrupt your body’s natural ecosystem, so I gradually stopped using them. We’ll use shampoo that washes away natural oils and then buy a conditioner to replace the oils that the shampoo has taken away. It makes no sense. I wanted to take a minimalist approach and see what would happen if I let my body reset to its natural state.'

James insists there is scientific evidence to support his regimen. 'Excessive use of soap and other skincare products on our bodies can harm our health in a number of ways. Even on a short-term basis, altering the chemicals of the skin by washing with products can change things, such as washing off the skin’s natural oils. I’ve interviewed experts who agree that chemical-laden gels and soaps can strip the skin of the lipids that keep it supple and moisturised. So it’s a vicious circle - washing off oils and then using more products to add oil back into the skin.'

Although James avoids shampoos and other toiletries, he still washes his hands with soap regularly, in accordance with government guidelines relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Dr Zainab Laftah, a consultant dermatologist at the London Dermatology Centre says, 'Bathing regularly is a key step in personal hygiene. Not washing for a few days is unlikely to cause any significant issues as our skin has its own natural mechanism for removing dead skin cells and sebum (oil). However, inadequate bathing for several weeks renders the skin more prone to infection.'

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