I know, you probably thought you learned all there was to know about bathing by the time you were five, but I’ve actually learned a lot in the past few years.
Go Easy on the Soap
Soap is actually optional, although it’s helpful if you’re really dirty. I used to use it all over my whole body (except my face and hair–that’s what shampoo and face wash was for, right?). Thanks to doing this, I had a dry, itchy back, and even got acne on my back. Thanks to using soap in my groin area, I had lots of yeast flare-ups down there. Even when I used “feminine wash.”
Slowly but surely, I learned soap was not necessary–or even desirable–on most parts of the body. Soap messes with body flora and is too harsh for delicate skin areas. Genitals ideally should only be cleansed with water. The less sensitive areas of the groin may be cleansed with a little baking soda, a tiny bit of castile soap, or other more gentle substances–or, of course, just water. Underarms and feet might be able to handle soap if you aren’t sensitive, otherwise, use the same thing you use to cleanse your private area. The rest of the body doesn’t need anything special–just water and regular exfoliation.
There are two ways in which I exfoliate. One is once a week in the shower, using a washcloth and plain water. I gently scrub those areas that seem to need it–under breasts, underarms, upper back, and feet, and then even more gently rub the other parts of my skin.
The other way I exfoliate is dry skin brushing. I usually use this as a way to freshen up on days I don’t shower, but it does have benefits that would make daily brushing desirable, such as increasing circulation in the skin and stimulating the lymphatic system. The skin is an important detoxification organ, so energizing it in this way is a good idea. Use a natural bristle body brush that isn’t too stiff.
Shampoo damages hair and often contains unhealthy ingredients. Many people do a “no-poo” (no shampoo) routine. Some use lemon juice or baking soda. Others use conditioner to wash their hair. I’ve found that egg yolks are effective. I’m a no-poo dropout because the baking soda didn’t work for me, and a “no-poo” conditioner-like hair wash didn’t work so great for me, either. Even though the egg yolk works, it’s expensive and messy and requires going down to the kitchen–so not convenient at all. I think I’ll do it eventually, but for now I’m going with an organic hair wash that cleans my hair well without stripping it.
Regardless of your method (except for the conditioner method) you should try to get your hair cleanser out of your hair as soon as possible to avoid over-washing your hair. If you use shampoo, this means 30 seconds or less before you rinse it out. I have a lot of hair, so I do my hair in three sections, rinsing each before moving onto the next. Because I have long hair, I do not wash the ends. My scalp oil never reaches the bottom six inches of my hair, so rinsing with water is enough to clean it.
Many commercial face washes dry or irritate the delicate facial skin and/or contain toxic ingredients. Save some money and your face, and use baking soda, oil, honey, or just plain water. It’s not good to dry out your skin, so baking soda should be used sparingly. A soft wash cloth may be used, but be very gentle. Less is better when it comes to washing your face. Anything that pulls on your face is going to make is sag more over time, and constant drying it out with harsh cleanser can make it appear aged.
I currently wash my face at most once a day, sometimes with a wet baby wash cloth and sometimes with a bit of baking soda or castile soap. I want to try the oil cleansing method as I think it would suit my face even better, although I’d also love to able to just splash some water on my face and call it good. Sometimes it takes time to make these changes, as your skin needs to get used to not producing excess oil.
We associate washing with moisturizing, but should this really be a necessary part of our daily routine? If your skins is drying out, by all means, moisturize! Coconut oil makes a wonderful moisturizer that is nourishing to the skin and is less expensive than fancy lotions that contain skin-drying alcohol, anyway. Other oils work well, too–jojoba is particularly nice.
If you have dry skin you are probably over-washing, though. OR you do not have enough moisturizing fats in your diet. Saturated fats and cholesterol are particularly good for the skin and for producing collagen. Make sure your animal fats come from good sources (wild, pastured, etc).
How Often to Bathe
There are two main problems with our luxurious modern showers. One, we often make the water too hot. This can dry out our skin. Two, city water is usually treated with chlorine, which is toxic. When you combine the two, it’s even worse. The hot water opens up the pores in the skin, allowing the skin to more readily absorb the chlorine from the water into the body. The chlorine alone on the outside of the skin is a problem because it destroys helpful bacteria on our skin which can protect us from skin infections.
Showering less often has the benefit of preventing skin from drying out and reducing our exposure to chlorine. It may also help the body regulate it’s oil production so we are less “oily” which means we can feel cleaner longer between showers. Washing hair less often is much healthier for the hair, too.
Of course, you can save money by showering less–on water, on shampoo and other shower toiletries, and on your laundry bill (fewer towels to wash). And my favorite thing about showering less–more time to do other things!
So how often? As little as you can handle. I’ve been trying to cut back my showers for two years, and I can still only go two days most of the time, occasionally three. I hope with improved diet I can spread it out a little further, simply because I don’t enjoy spending so much time in the bathroom (I have a lot of hair, remember!).
If you have good, clean well water, you are in luck. Bathing in natural water is actually beneficial. Clean streams, lakes, rivers and oceans all contain helpful microbes for the skin. And they don’t have chlorine!! Bathe in natural water as often as you wish. If you have access to a mineral hot springs, that’s even better.
Do you have any tips for nourishing bathing practices?