If there’s one thing that I’m pretty vigilant about when it comes to kids, it’s our nighttime ritual of bathing them.
Maybe it’s a carry-over from my days as a nurse, maybe it’s because my kids tend to go outside and literally roll around in the dirt on a pretty regular basis, or maybe it’s because my babies always seem to have explosive, up-the-back poops with every diaper change, but in general, it feels like a nightly cleansing of some kind is pretty much needed `round these parts.
On the nights that we let them skip, I always go to bed slightly horrified, thinking about the bedmates they are taking with them, and I won’t be able to resist the urge to strip the bedsheets in the morning.
My rigorous bathing schedule for my kids may come with a price, however.
David Whitlock, a chemical engineer from Boston, claims that the daily hygienic practices of clean mothers, like myself, have actually destroyed our bodies’ natural microbiomes (our unique bacterial make-up) and unlike our non-showering, dirty ancestors, we actually stink because we’re too clean.
And the man has a pretty compelling story to back up his claims — he hasn’t showered in 12 years.
The backstory for Whitlock goes a little something like this: he began to wonder if showers were really necessary when a friend mentioned how her horse would purposefully coat itself in dirt come springtime. Could the horses know something we don’t know? Whitlock wondered. Could there be some kind of protection from the bacteria in the dirt that the horses were benefiting from?
Why yes, yes there is. The bacterium was Nitrosomonas genus, and it is present on almost every organism that comes into contact with water. Nitrosomonas bacteria break down ammonia on the surface of organisms, producing nitric oxide and nitrite, which in turn, becomes a powerful antibacterial substance.
And here’s where things get interesting.
Humans, Whitlock discovered, have virtually no Nitrosomonas bacteria on their skin. If they did, that bacteria would essentially eat ammonia on our skin. So because ammonia and other bacterial growth that eats our sweat is what actually causes us to smell in terms of B.O., putting more of the right bacteria on our skin that would eat the “bad” bacteria and also break down the ammonia would = no more stink.
Is your mind blown yet?
Whitlock put his theory to the test, and decided to completely stop showering, since Nitrosomonas bacteria is destroyed by soap and growing a “healthy coat” of the stuff is a process that can take more than a few months. He continued hand washing for eating purposes, but other than that, he stopped the showers and instead spritzed himself with homemade bacterial concoction called AO+ Mist that he now sells through his company, AoBiome. According to the site, the mist:
” … is a one-of-a-kind product that contains live AOB, a microorganism found in soil and critically important in nature. Similar to a probiotic, these patented beneficial bacteria work to enrich the skin’s natural environment. Specifically, AOB consume the irritating components of our sweat (ammonia and urea) and transform them into benefits for the skin. This continuous cycle helps restore balance to the skin in a gentle and natural way, while also fighting odor-causing bacteria. The mist is simply sprayed on skin, especially on sweat-prone areas, instantly applying the AOB enabling the bacteria to do its work and reestablish itself in the skin biome.”
“Much like our gut, the skin biome relies on good bacteria to help the skin stay healthy,” the AoBiome website explains. “Today, the delicate balance of our skin biome is under attack. Our constant use of soaps, antibacterials, lack of interaction with nature and our modern lifestyles in general have made it difficult for us to maintain the beneficial bacteria that once existed naturally on our skin and played an important role in its health. This disruption to our skin’s ecosystem leaves it more susceptible to many challenges including sensitivity, dryness and other skin related problems.”
I’m still slightly repulsed by the idea of never showering, and I am honestly a little confused by the logistics of it — sorry for the TMI — but what about poop particles? Women on their periods? And the hair? Is bacteria all you need for shinier, healthier hair?
I know that many of us are lax about giving the baby a bath, and I’m completely down with that. Although, my kids seemed to be of the chubbier baby variety, and I often found myself getting a whiff of the baby “cheese,” when I would lift their rolls and find a gag-worthy white film in their neck or armpits if I missed a few bath nights. (Please tell I’m not the only one this happened to.)
But not bathing the baby at all is an entirely new level, although AoBiome’s preliminary studies are pretty darn convincing. One found that acne and overall skin “health” was improved by study participants who rubbed live bacteria into their faces.
So I guess while we sit tight and await the future of our fate from bathing ourselves in water vs. bacteria, we can all go ahead and agree on one thing:
Tonight is the perfect night to skip bath time. For health reasons, of course.