Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Showering, cleanliness, soaps and false presumptions

I have always considered myself to be a skeptic and rationalist. I am sure I have obtained a heavy dose of skepticism from growing up in a family long employed in the marketing and advertising business. I worked as a child model/actor and can remember being with other children who were as equally disinterested in the product we were promoting, until the camera was on.

I have also been an iconoclast when it came to institutions and traditions. I was never satisfied with being one of the "sheeple". I was not accepting of doing things just because everyone else was doing it and instead held a preference to act outside of group norms. My rebuke of institutionalized education, which is still squarely in my cross-hairs for the tremendous damage that it does to young minds, was great then. But when it came to bathing at a young age I was both rebellious and conforming. That is the subject I broach today.

I know it was popular for young boys to engage in somewhat of a competition to see who could go the greatest number of days without bathing. I was a willing participant in that one, rebelling against societal standards, which often lead to heated disagreements with my parents. Of course, at the same time I was a conformist in league with my cohorts.

At some point we matured and a daily shower became ritual, so much so that my parents would then complain of my burning through all the hot water in a little under an hour. Unfortunately I did this without any critical examination.

The ends justify the means but I hadn't thought about what created the ends -- a so-called need to shower -- until I got older. The more abstract and probing thoughts started to come to me as I matured. I wondered such things as why would our bodies need to be cleansed on a daily basis with products made only during the last few generations.

I had studied anthropology and particularly the writings of Charles Darwin in an attempt to validate the daily shower routines popular in Western culture. I found some support in a possible causal relationship between the introduction of petro-chemicals and other man made products and the advent of the daily shower ritual but the most likely contributors were the vastness of indoor plumbing after World War II and television. Think about who sponsored television programs. But I also wondered about those people who didn't use these innovative products.

Anthropologically I had deduced that the sick and diseased were often bred out of the gene pool because of the offensive odors they produced. If we are offended by repulsive odors so much that we need a daily shower using abrasive cleansers then how did we get here?

In my late teens I abnegated the use of deodorant as it had caused skin irritation and the directions did say discontinue use. Additionally, introducing the ingredients into the lymph system caused me great concern. At times I did produce a strong and somewhat offensive odor which could occur within an hour of showering. I deduced that it could not possibly be showering that eliminates odor. There must be an underlying root cause that soaps could not extinguish. Still I was resolute in following the directions. Around the same time a model and actress taught me how to shower properly. From that I did notice a change in my skin. It seemed to feel more natural and less irritated.

A short time later my recalcitrant behaviour resulted in a stint in federal prison where I was no more compliant with societal norms than I was on the outside. During my stays in solitary confinement I eventually shunned all contact with the outside world. I committed myself to having no human interaction for 24 hours per day over weeks or longer. This meant that I was not let out to exercise or shower. I then observed that I had developed no offensive body odors. However, I was not being exposed to the normal daily routines that one would be if not confined to a small concrete box so I was unable to make a causal relationship at that time. I was on a kosher diet at this point though which served to stimulate the idea that body odor emanated from with and was not topical in cause.

Once booted back into society my thoughts reverted to more traditional concepts -- working, paying bills, friends -- and I digressed to showering regularly. Over the past five years though as I began to close in on the big 4-0 I started giving more thought to health. I began exercising regularly and playing futbol. I started out with my weight in the mid 180's and settled in around 155-165.

Soon that wasn't good enough. I decided upon adding running to my sporting activities with the goal of entering the 500 Festival Mini Marathon for the first time. Although I had been a vegetarian for 20 years now I still was able to make improvements in my diet. I dropped my weight to the lower 140's and managed to complete the 13.1 mile course in 1:52:12. During this time I had progressively showered less -- generally once or twice a week -- and was rarely using detergents when doing so. I continued to conduct experiments on myself. When I was the sweatiest is when I felt the cleanest. This again triggered anthropological thoughts. Modern bathing techniques are, well just that, modern. Yet I do believe, like Darwin, that we have salient knowledge of the past. Through natural selection preferential traits have been passed along and we seem to "know" without thinking or logical or scientific analysis. Think back to your first experience with sour milk. Was it a demonstration by an adult or was it self-discovered.

We find odors offensive not because they are offensive in and of themselves. It can only be our hardwired perception. Those who must not have found a particular odor offensive were bred out of existence by the offenders. Diseases of the reproductive organs in women, which are primarily bacterial or viral, produce an offensive odor. From this I can conclude that those diseases must have been fatal or at least so offensive to our ancestors that when these diseases were transferred to a man he either died or was shunned by women. What eventually remained was a gene pool that had an innate abhorrence to those odors to such a degree that it was so offensive as to overcome the strong drive for carnal relations.

This is the reason that I will not have sexual relations with a woman who is teeming in perfume. Perfume is of no use other than to mask offending odors. Perfume, which means "through smoke" was originally developed as incense used in the practices of the cults. It wasn't until about the 15th century that applying liquid perfume to the body became commonplace. That practice originated in France and was for the purpose of masking offensive odors. The practice was adapted by unclean prostitutes who emitted offensive odors from a variety of sources. Having been easily infected by communicable venereal diseases prostitutes would falter in their ability to engage in their trade when potential clients were dissuaded by the offending odors. The solution was to trick the mind into not perceiving the danger by masking the odor with pleasant fragrances such as those derived from flower extracts.

I continually perform experiments on myself ranging from various dietary issues through sleep deprivation or other measures of endurance and human limitations. I will soon be attempting to live for three days on 9 meal replacement shakes only. As for showering or bathing I have essentially done away with that altogether. I know that I haven't bathed this year. Last year maybe twenty or so times.

The first thing I know is that when bacteria are out of balance a likely result is body odor. Thus, the concept of cleansing the body of bacteria through the use of soaps has developed. Some say body odor is the smell of bacteria growing on the body, but it really is the result of bacteria breaking down protein into certain acids.

The catalyst is sweat. There are two types of sweat glands: Eccrine glands and Apocrine glands. The Eccrine are the glands that regulate temperature and produce the sweat that flushes across the body during periods of intense exercise. That sweat is high in salt and is not very effective in breaking down the proteins. The Apocrine are located around the sex organs and armpits. The sweat produced here contains the pheromones which can be quite attractive. The false attribution that exercise produces body odor is likely from the sweat from the Eccrine glands flowing over the areas where the sweat from the Apocrine glands has resided. Showering is often seen as the remedy for what sweat is already doing.

However, the premise that showering is the method for ridding the body of offensive odors has been shattered. It may be counter-intuitive but it is the very cleansing process of using soaps that vitiates the body causing odor and why I have found it best to not use soaps.

This is a result of my relentless efforts to always approach system dynamics in an deductive manner. Applying the principle of Occam's Razor it seemed apparent to me that once the harmful effects of soap are removed body odors must then emanate from within. It is purely a logical deduction. There are three ways by which matter enters the body: breathe it; eat or drink it; absorb it. So what has changed throughout our evolutionary for the most part has been food and to some extent what's absorbed through the skin. Based upon my use of protective gear to keep chemicals fro leaching into my skin I have determined that body odor is then food based.

If my evolutionary theory is correct then a diet based upon what would be available to our ancestors should remedy any body odor issue. My diet consists of vegetables in the majority, followed by fruit then legumes and grains. Some experts believe a diet high in red meat may also raise the risk of developing more rapid body odor.

I also keep my skin as clean as possible by not applying any topical ointments to it other than natural oils. By rejecting the false presumptions perpetuated by marketing agencies I have greatly improved the health of my skin.

Here is some information about soap that explains why it shouldn't be used. Soap - a surfactant - works by making fat and oil water-soluble and easily removed by wiping or washing. Soaps damage both the fat and protein structures of the top layer of the epidermis. This can cause unpleasant skin reactions and lead to a rougher skin texture. Soaps are by nature alkaline and will raise the skin’s acidic pH as well as provoke swelling of the skin surface. Some studies have shown long-term use of a neutral or alkaline surfactant, such as soap, can increase the amount of bacteria on the skin, while also removing natural moisturizing factors and disrupting the skin’s protective barrier.

There is a foaming agent added to soaps and detergents called Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) which should concern you. SLS is an esters of Sulfuric acid and is a skin irritant. In addition to bath soap shampoos are among the most frequently reported products to the FDA. Reports include eye irritation, scalp irritation, tangled hair, swelling of the hands, face and arms and split and fuzzy hair. The main cause of these problems is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. It has been about a year since I have washed my hair with a shampoo. Since that time the gray has gone away. That may be a casual relationship though, possibly attributable to improved diet or exercise.

As for deodorants and antiperspirants I am not even going to go into that since it is just a common sense issue. Anything that is going to desiccate the skin and interfere with the natural process of thermal regulation can't be good. Of course there are people who will deride this practice but just as with all opinions appropriate weight must be given to them. Those based upon inane social dogma should carry no weight.

By shedding the false presumptions that have been ingrained into society's social conscience through carefully crafted campaigns created by marketing firms I have much healthier skin, hair and immune system. Additionally there are the ancillary benefits like time saved and money not wasted. The greatest benefit has to be the women who tell me I have such a great scent while gliding their hands over my soft skin.

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©2008, 2012 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.


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