“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Krishnamurti
I know I’ll catch a lot of flak on this one but I believe it has made a big difference in the quality of my skin.
Stop soaping your face.
Or your back or wherever you are suffering acne.
Acne doesn’t mean you need soap. Acne is not caused by a soap deficiency. It’s also not caused by grease, oil, dirt, or bacteria.
“Oh god, he’s not recommending we don’t ever use soap, is he?” No I’m not. I soap my armpits and crotch like a sane person but I don’t strip all the oil off my face twice a day like a hypochondriac lunatic.
Yes, you’ll hear a lot of commercials, doctors, and well-meaning friends and family telling you that you should try this soap or that soap. French milled, goat milk, almond milk, or an exfoliating scrub.
You probably can feel at some level that this is all marketing gone crazy. It is.
How many wild animals do you see scrubbing their faces? Zero. That’s right. None. How many get acne? I don’t know but it looks like zero. Why do we humans soap our skin? Well, there are a few reasons. We think our natural body oils are “dirty” and “gross”. You may enjoy that pointless “squeaky, clean” feeling (which is the feeling of skin stripped of all protective oil). Some people need to remove make up at the end of the day.
It’s normal today to soap every day.
It just isn’t very smart.
Unless you work outdoors and get covered in sweat or you’re a tradesman who gets industrial greases, oils, and chemicals on your skin, there isn’t any point to soaping up every day. Even in those cases you probably wouldn’t need to soap your face or back.
My soap (sob) story:
I travel a lot for work, which used to make my diet very difficult to control. As a result, my skin became…less than perfect. I’ve since learned how to control it 100% while on the road but there was a time I tried soap instead.
It was February 2013 and I was staying in a hotel in Ohio. (I can always remember the really bad skin weeks). I’d never really regularly washed my face with soap but this night I gave my face a good soaping. I thought maybe doing what everyone else seems to do might help the few random pimples I got. The next morning my skin seemed to be better. I started making a regimen of soaping my face that week. I would wash it just once a day, at night.
On the ride to the airport to go home a few days later, I noticed something like 5 nodules forming deep within my forehead. These were bordering on cyst status.
I was absolutely horrified. Deep, painful lumps that I knew I’d be wearing for the next couple weeks at minimum. I was angry and frustrated and so sick and tired of this disease.
I returned home to New York and I met up with my girlfriend. I feel bad looking back on this now because I was angry the whole time I was with her that morning. We went to a nearby diner and I couldn’t stop obsessing about my forehead the entire time. I could barely talk about anything else. I could tell by the look on her face and the things that she said that she didn’t think it was that big a deal and really wanted to talk about something else. It didn’t help me stop obsessing.
I remembered that I had been washing my face a lot that week and I said to myself, “Screw it. Washing does jack shit. It seems to even make it worse. I’m just not going to bother washing it anymore…AT ALL”.
Within days my skin was doing better.
It wasn’t over yet, but my skin took on a much more nourished and hydrated look.
This is when I really began to realize that washing is totally unnecessary for me to have clear skin.
After all, what prehistoric or isolated peoples routinely washed their face with soap? Yet they rarely suffered from acne. It’s a modern day invention.
I continued to leave my face alone. I soaped every part of my body in the shower except the places that were acne prone. It sounds counter-intuitive I know, but it was helping. Of course, I didn’t tell anyone I was doing this as we live in a hygiene and washing obsessed, crazed culture. I’d be labelled “gross”. Well, I’d rather be gross in theory than gross to look at.
Not only was my skin more hydrated but it was also seemed to become more acne-resistant. I was sold.
Here’s my personal theory: When you wash your face, your body immediately goes, “What just happened, where did our protective lubricant go?” and it creates more. So in essence, you are not ever going to win. Your body creates more oil and quickly to compensate for the damage you have just done. This compensation means more chances for pores to become clogged and inflamed. Hence, more acne.
Yes, this is my theory and I have no studies to support it. Just simple common sense logic.
Why do you wash your face every day?
Have you ever really thought about the reason? It’s probably because you were told to do it. This is always a terrible reason to do anything aside from maybe “Don’t ever look down the barrel of a gun”. Some sayings hold true but I don’t know about soaping your face every day. If you think about why people soap their skin it’s usually because they think they need to remove dirt and oils. The problem is most people don’t get a lot of dirt on their faces and oil is a completely natural substance to exist on the face.
“The sebaceous glands are microscopic glands in the skin that secrete an oily/waxy matter, called sebum, to lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair of mammals. In humans, they are found in greatest abundance on the face and scalp, though they are distributed throughout all skin sites except the palms and soles.” (source)
This sebum is normal for healthy skin.
It lubricates and waterproofs us!
Grease may be undesirable on your dishes, so you soap it. Oils are not desirable in our clothing so we soap them. Our skin? That needs oil.
Would you remove the oil from a car so it’s “cleaner”? No, the engine would seize almost instantly. Would you strip all the grease from a door hinge? No, it would squeak like crazy and wear out. Do animals soap up to remove all the oil? No, the lick themselves and roll around in mud to get more oil. Why is it bad on a human body? It isn’t. It’s not bad on any animal. Animals are meant to be greasy and oily and flexible. Not squeaky clean. Life is dirty. Soaping our whole bodies to squeaky, rubbery clean is social brainwashing nonsense. It also sells a lot of soap.
Oil glands do not exist simply to provide us with acne. You do not see other mammals religiously stripping oil from their skin. If anything, the opposite is true. It exists for a reason and the more you wash it off, the more your body will produce. Oil is not an unnatural thing you need to remove from your body/face. Do your best to keep the soaping to a minimum.
Another reason to leave natural sebum oils on your skin is because of the sun and Vitamin D.
“Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.” (source)
Skin stripped of it’s natural oil and exposed to the sun is a relatively new phenomena for human beings. It also makes no sense. Oil serves to protect you from the sun as well as work with your body to provide crucial Vitamin D. You are probably at greater risk of sunburn without natural oil on your face.
The American Academy of Dermatology tells us to avoid using alcohol-based astringents to avoid stripping natural moisture from the skin, but what they aren’t telling you is that really all soap strips natural moisture from the skin. Try to find a soap that doesn’t strip oil. That’s the whole purpose of soap.
Dirt does not cause acne.
Prehistoric and primitive, isolated modern people do not suffer from acne and they have no qualms whatsoever about having dirt on their faces. They will often intentionally rub mud on their faces for numerous reasons. We did not begin to get acne because we weren’t washing our faces enough. You probably wash your face too much.
Bacteria does not cause acne.
Let’s talk about P. Acnes. The dreaded acne bacteria. Let’s get one thing straight. Everyone has P. Acnes on their face.
What is P. Acnes? It certainly sounds bad, doesn’t it? Propionibacterium acnes is the bacteria that grows within the hair follicle, feeding off the sebum and dead skin cells to create an inflamed condition, called acne. It’s our enemy, right?
Not really. Propionibacterium acnes is actually part of the normal flora of bacteria on healthy human skin. It is also often found in the gastrointestinal tract. Trying to eliminate P. Acnes is like trying to eliminate mosquitos. Good luck.
You will never get rid of P. Acnes and you don’t really want to. It is sort of the same problem we face with cholesterol. The mere presence of something does not identify it as the cause of the disease. Many medications aim to kill P. Acnes in an effort to eliminate acne. Many face washes and creams use Benzoyl Peroxide, quite effectively, to this effect.
However, I do not think this is the answer. Cancer may be an overgrowth of cells in the body but you wouldn’t want to attack every cell in the body, would you? This is how antibiotics attack P. Acnes, by killing all microorganisms in your body.
I do not believe attacking naturally occurring bacteria on the skin is the cure. I believe it is poor living that results in acne and using chemicals and antibiotics is only a band-aid of a cover. It does not address the cause, since lots of people with normal, healthy skin have plenty of P. Acnes on their face.
Naturally occurring oils, dirt, and bacteria are not the cause of acne. They have been with us since the beginning of time. Crappy food is new.
Then how do we wash ourselves?
I do not expect everyone to be able to do what I do in the shower. I rinse my face with water and that is it. Sometimes I don’t even get any water on it.
I know some people want to wash their face. Women wear makeup and need to remove it at the end of the day. Some people’s skin is more oily by nature and they really desire to wash it once a day. I can understand this. I would advise you use the gentlest wash possible and to use it as infrequently as popular. Regular bar soap and most facial soaps, really anything with sulfates will strip too much of the natural oils from your face. Use plain water or an oil based cleanser as much as you can.
Make no mistake about it, billions of dollars are made selling soap every year.
No one is going to make any money off you rinsing your face with water. Keep this in mind whenever you see commercials and other advertisements for face and body washes. Keep this in mind when you see “acne-fighting” written on bottles of soap.
Do what works for you, not what you are told to do. Just because it’s normal and popular doesn’t make it the right decision. Hygiene and washing is a very personal decision and of course I leave this up to the individual’s choice. My face looks great without any soap. I mean none. I never put soap to my face because it seems to cause acne and it doesn’t make any sense anyway. My face doesn’t smell. It doesn’t mean I don’t wash the rest of my body, namely the parts that would smell.
It’s stupid. It creates more harm than good. Yes, you may enjoy that pointless squeaky, clean feeling but I much prefer the lubricated, protected feel to the tight, weird feeling soap causes.
I no longer wash my face with any soap, ever. Water only, please.
Cut down or eliminate the soap on acne-prone skin. Rinse your skin with water and let your natural body oils do their damn job. Give it a shot and see if it doesn’t feel and look better.
Acne is an indicator of a deeper problem. Acne is an early warning signal to change something. It makes no sense to try to make acne alone go away. You must address the underlying problem, not treat the symptoms. If a topical medication or soap makes the acne disappear, you’re still left with the internal problem and a new regimen to carry out every day. Why are you getting acne in the first place? Not a lack of soap. Aborigines don’t wash their face every day and they have no acne. Early native Americans didn’t wash with soap before bed, they had no acne. Even if you’re one of the lucky few who experience success with topical products, the internal problem still exists. You are masking a much deeper problem that could result in more serious health problems later in your life. Do you want to take that risk and continue using a band-aid? I’d personally rather treat the internal disease that is manifesting as red bumps.